The Aam Admi Party (AAP) was today stuck by a revolt with one of its top founding leaders Shanti Bhushan questioning his organisational ability and competence, triggering demand for his resignation.
The outburst by the 88-year-old Bhushan, the party Patron and an eminent lawyer, comes on top of simmering discontent in the party over the way it is run and complaints by some leaders there was "lack of democracy" at a time when it has to prepare for the assembly elections in Delhi.
"Arvind (Kejriwal) is a great leader and a great campaigner, but in my opinion he lacks organisational ability. He does not have the kind of competence which can spread the message of the party all over India, which can quickly create elected structures of the party which nobody will be able to blame," Bhushan, a former union law minister, said.
"Therefore this delay of two years in getting the elected structures in place is a great handicap. This is resulting in different voices," he said.
Bhushan's attack on Kejriwal, National Convenor, was sought to be downplayed by party leaders Yogendra Yadav and Ashutosh but Shazia Ilmi, another founder leader who had quit the party recently, joined the attack on Kejriwal.
Dissident MLA Vinod Kumar Binny that Kejriwal should resign from the party. "He said after the demand by senior leader like Shanti Bhushan, Kejriwal should not stay in the post if he has any sense of dignity left in him," he said.
However, the party has said that it does not agree with the comments made by Bhushan.
"The criticism by Bhushan, who is himself one of the founding members of the party, on this issue is misplaced.
"The biggest example of internal democracy is the party's decision to contest Lok Sabha elections on a large number of seats, despite opposition from the AAP national convenor, Arvind Kejriwal," the party said.
AAP leader Prashant Bhushan, son of Shanti Bhushan, also differed with his father saying he has expressed his personal opinion which would have been better if he had discussed it in the party forum rather than go public with it.
"I think it has become a fashion to say that there is no internal democracy in the party. AAP is a true reflection on how democracy functions in a party," Prashant Bhushan said.
AAP had last month sacked Karan Singh, a senior volunteer, after he along with other party workers formed AAP Volunteers Vichar Manch (AVAM) to raise issues concerning volunteers, complaining lack of internal democracy in the party. Shanti Bhushan had come out in support of AVAM.
Shanti Bhushan said that since Kejriwal was not an elected leader he cannot claim to be the sole voice of the party.
"Today, since he does not owe his position as an elected person by all India members of the party, therefore, he cannot say his voice is the sole voice of the party. Possibly, he thinks that because the National Council appointed him as convenor of the National Executive which is why he probably feels his voice is the main," he said.
AAP said that Shanti Bhushan was upset over the party's decision not to contest the coming Haryana Assembly elections.
"He (Shanti Bhushan) had his own views on the issue, but the party's National Executive and the Political Affairs Committee decided against contesting Haryana elections.
"(Shanti) Bhushan has access to everyone in the party and his colleagues expect him to raise any issue which he considers important, with them, as a senior. It is unfortunate that he has aired his views publicly," the party said in a statement.
Shanti Bhushan said that in order to spread the party across the country, Kejriwal should share his responsibilities.
"He (Kejriwal) should reorganise the functions. So far spreading the party all over India, he should share the responsibility with someone else who has enough time and enough talent in organisational work.
"He should remain the chief campaigner and the face of the party because he has those qualities. He is very sharp and a great strategist but it is important for the party that his message reaches across the country," Bhushan Sr said.
He also criticised Kejriwal for resigning as the Delhi Chief Minister. Terming the move as "political immaturity", Bhushan said that the AAP National Convenor did not consult him while taking such a major step.
"It is a sign of political immaturity. He should have consulted experienced people before taking that decision. He admits that he made that mistake. He has assured me that he would consult me on important issues," he said.
The party said that it was still evolving and addressing the organisational concerns.
"The AAP was formed less than two years back and is still in the evolving process. Many of the organisational concerns are being addressed as a part of the ongoing developmental process.
"At this juncture the party is gearing up for fresh assembly elections in Delhi and the organisational preparation is at an advanced stage," the party said in its statement.
Meanwhile, former AAP leader Shazia Ilmi, who quit the party also hit out at Kejriwal.
"I resigned from the party and I would like to echo Shanti Bhushanji's sentiments that there is indeed a lack of inner party democracy, there is a lack of organisational skills. Voice of dissent and constructive criticism is not appreciated.
"A coterie is running the show and it is not doing a good job and its preventing volunteers from participating in a more self-expressed way or from taking the best decisions for the party and people," Ilmi said.