Two key members of Aam Aadmi Party Shazia Ilmi and G R Gopinath today quit citing differences with Arvind Kejriwal's "jail politics" and lack of "internal democracy" in the party, which is battling internal fissures after the severe electoral drubbing in recent polls.
The simmering discontent in the fledgling party since its Lok Sabha poll debacle came to the fore as Ilmi, one of the founder members, announced her resignation from all party posts, claiming that a "crony clique" around Kejriwal was calling the shots.
While resigning from AAP, Gopinath, pioneer of low-cost air travel in India who joined the party in January, targeted Kejriwal saying a head of a party cannot indulge in "shoot and scoot politics" and questioned his refusal to furnish a bail bond in the defamation case filed against him by BJP leader Nitin Gadkari.
At a press conference in Delhi, Ilmi - who had lost the Lok Sabha polls from Ghaziabad - said, "After much thought and deliberation I have decided to give up my membership of AAP and resign from all positions within the party.
"My decision to leave the party is triggered by the lack of inner-party democracy, especially from a party that constantly talks of Swaraj (where everyone has a say in decision making)," she said.
Ilmi clarified that she is not joining any other party as of now.
She also disapproved of Kejriwal's "jail politics" and party's ways of holding dharnas.
"One strongly believes that instead of wasting our collective energy in the bail-jail imbroglio Arvind (Kejriwal) should have taken the bond, gone back to people, met our candidates and people there," she said.
In a communication to AAP's Karnataka Convenor Prithvi Reddy, Gopinath said, "I would like to resign from the membership of the Aam Aadmi Party with immediate effect because of increasing differences with the party leadership and its ways."
When contacted, Gopinath confirmed the development over phone from Toulouse in France.
Sources in AAP said a section in the party was unhappy about the way it is being run. They questioned various decisions like selection of candidates for Lok Sabha polls and "lack of communication" between the leadership and the second-rung leaders as well as the volunteers.
Earlier, former diplomat Madhu Bhaduri had quit AAP.
The party had sacked Laxmi Nagar MLA Vinod Kumar Binny in January and national council member Ashwini Upadhya in April.
Attacking Kejriwal and some other AAP leaders Ilmi said, "We fight against cronyism but we have a crony clique which runs the party and takes impulsive decisions which we learn about later. I find it amazing that we cannot follow the principles of Swaraj within our own party.
"When a brilliant person like Arvind who espoused the concept of Swaraj of collective making is unable to follow it personally within the party, then doesn't it become incumbent to point out the same," she said.
Ilmi also said there was a need to "re-invent the party".
"The perpetuation of sensationalism may have helped us to make our point initially, but continue to use it as a norm defeats the the exercise of trust reposed in us by the public.
"Is naming some corporate houses and politicians continuously enough? We played a role of galvanising public opinion and converting it in a political party, but when we became a political party, it needed to evolve and not just assume the garb of agitation," Ilmi said.
Ilmi is known to have been with the party since its "India Against Corruption" movement days. She contested assembly election from R K Puram, but lost by a few hundred votes.
The party wanted to field her from Rai Bareli against Congress President Sonia Gandhi but had she refused as she wanted to contest from any seat in Delhi. Her request was turned down and she was asked to contest from Ghaziabad.
Gopinath said he wished "the party well in its future endeavours" saying he was great admirer of Anna Hazare and Kejriwal continues to be so.
He, however, termed as mistake Kejriwal's failure to appear in court and his refusal to furnish a bail bond after which he was sent to judicial custody till June 6.
Gopinath said it could not be compared to the stand taken by Hazare, who was sent to judicial custody in August 2011 following his arrest during Janlokpal Bill agitation after he refused to sign a personal bond.
Gopinath had founded the first low-cost carrier Air Deccan in 2003, which was taken over by Vijay Mallya and named 'Kingfisher Red' that has now closed down.
In a blog posting today titled
Has Kejriwal lost his way
, Gopinath criticised the functioning of AAP chief.
"Kejriwal was brazen and broke that rule. He went for the jugular. What was rumoured in whispers, he stood up to in public, which made him the darling of the people and the media. Kejriwal did not stop there. He made allegations against other high and mighty of the land," he said, referring to AAP chief's allegations against Robert Vadra and Gadkari.
"It's one thing to gossip about it in private but when one holds a responsible position as head of a political party, one has to take responsibility and not, as some one described it, indulge in shoot and scoot politics, denigrating people's reputation, however credible the rumours may seem and however tempting the chance to score brownie points or capture media attention and public sympathy as a crusader against corruption," Gopinath said in the blog.
Referring to the defamation case, he said Kejriwal's refusal to furnish a bail bond pleading that he had not committed any crime as his action was political was based on "convoluted logic".
Gopinath had joined the party in January stating that "Kejriwal's AAP is seen transforming that hope of Anna's fight against corruption into action."
He had, however, openly slammed the decision of the AAP government in Delhi to reject FDI in retail, saying the party is "running in danger" of being branded like other parties of resorting to cheap and populist measures.
The double-blow came as the party was reeling under its failure to win any seat in Delhi in Lok Sabha polls just months after its stunning victory in Assembly elections when it made its electoral debut.
Kejriwal has also come under criticism for resigning as Chief Minister over the Lokpal Bill issue after just 49 days in power, a move which the party admitted had cost it dear prom
Ilmi, however, said if there is "role and relevance" for her in the party, she may reconsider her decision.
When asked why she quit the party at the crucial juncture when Kejriwal is in jail, she said that she wanted to quit the party long time back.
Ilmi said that Kejriwal was surrounded by "coterie", who acted as "gatekeepers".
"If I cannot get through Kejriwal then how will the volunteers reach him," she said.
Before Ilmi announced her resignation, party MLA Bandana Kumari and former Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti met her in the morning.
"When I heard about her decision to quit, I met her in the morning. She was associated with the party since its start. She had some issues and we tried to sort it out, but could not convince her," Kumari said.
"The key 4m (from) @shaziailmi press conference: if given role and relevance would demand her return in AAP, she will be back," Bharti later tweeted.