The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) apocalypse has been averted, for now. Arvind Kejriwal struck a rarely exhibited reconciliatory note and kept Kumar Vishwas from walking out on the party they co-founded.
In fact, by Arvind Kejriwal’s standards, the Delhi Chief Minister went out of his way to placate the rebel leader. He put his deputy Manish Sisodia on the job, overlooked the fact that Kumar Vishwas defied his gag order, and even personally went to Kumar Vishwas’ house to make him come around.
The question is, why? Why would a no-nonsense Chief Minister with little tolerance for any insubordination tolerate such indiscipline?
Murder or Suicide: What Will Come First for AAP?
Speaking to The Quint on the day of the MCD election results, sacked AAP leader Yogendra Yadav said “one can’t be sure if it will be murder or suicide, but the end of Aam Aadmi Party is certain.”
The party has taken a beating in six consecutive elections, which has stalled all talk of contesting in Gujarat this year-end, and is waiting on the Election Commission’s verdict in the office of profit case, which has the power to dissolve the Delhi assembly in one go.
Under the circumstances, it was crucial Arvind Kejriwal retained Kumar Vishwas, once referred to as his ‘Man Friday’.
The 72-hour political drama, replete with allegations of conspiracy, threats, and tears began when the now-suspended Okhla MLA Amanatullah alleged that Kumar Vishwas was plotting a coup at the behest of the BJP.
Khan also alleged that Vishwas had offered Rs 30 crore to some AAP legislators to join the BJP.
Electoral Nobody, But a Strong Political Influencer
Kumar Vishwas refuses to call himself a politician. “I’m a revolutionary”, he said and “the AAP is not a party. It’s a revolution.” His words ring true today, in more ways than one.
Electorally, Kumar Vishwas is a nobody. The 47-year-old who positions himself as a ‘youth icon’ was not given a ticket to fight any one of the two Delhi assembly elections. His symbolic contest against Rahul Gandhi and Smriti Irani in Amethi led him to lose his deposit after he stood a distant fourth with 25,500-odd votes.
Regardless, Kumar Vishwas has a massive following. A renowned Hindi poet of the Shringara-Ras (romantic genre), he is credited with bringing new energy to Kavi Sammelans.
Also, his stature within the AAP could possibly have encouraged others to jump ship as well. A key strategist, he handled the cyber wing of the party and organised over 120 yatras to mobilise support among the youth ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Several slogans and songs penned by him became campaign slogans. Over the years, he has penned lyrics for songs sung by the likes of Asha Bhonsle, raising his stature and scope of influence.
Then, there’s the emotional connect. Kumar Vishwas grew up with Manish Sisodia in Pilkhuwa, Uttar Pradesh. It was his childhood friend, now the deputy Chief Minister, who introduced him to Kejriwal in 2006. Kumar Vishwas, therefore, became part of the core team that first spearheaded the India Against Corruption protests and launched its political faction.
When the AAP swept the Delhi assembly election, Arvind Kejriwal was first seen alongside Kumar Vishwas. But over the last two years, he’s been relegated to the fringe. A spokesperson for the party, but not a decision maker. An influencer for the party with little influence over its members.
That Kumar Vishwas had, in 2014, expressed his admiration for Prime Minister Modi’s foreign policies, praised his response to the J&K floods, and even called him “a better Prime Minister than Manmohan Singh”, stopped one from outright dismissing Amanatullah’s allegation.
Recently, he’s been publicly criticising his Chief Minister for demanding proof of the surgical strikes against Pakistan, finding fault with the EVMs, and surrounding himself with Yes Men. Even his online propaganda assumed a more “nationalistic” fervour.
What is surprising is that the party is on the decline, with very few senior leaders, who are always at loggerheads and trying to wield influence with a party chief who’s been accused of functioning in an autocratic manner. For now, an uneasy peace has been brokered. But we can expect more fireworks when the party gets down to picking its nominees for three Rajya Sabha seats next year. That is, if the Election Commission does not trigger a series of events that could threaten the party’s brute majority in the assembly.
(The story has been updated)