Close compatriots till not too long ago, Arvind Kejriwal and Kumar Vishwas are not seeing eye-to-eye, and the schism between the two erstwhile colleagues of the anti-corruption campaign and founding members of AAP appears irreparable.
On the morning of December 14, 2013, the window on the first floor of a run down bungalow in central Delhi would open, at regular intervals, to a crowd gathered in the front lawns below. As the people cheered, Kumar Vishwas would lean out and announce in his trademark poetic way that one more seat had come the way of the newbie Aam Aadmi Party in the assembly elections of Delhi.
The crowd went up in rapture as Vishwas brought AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal to the window, held aloft his arm as the victor and declared that he had vanquished Sheila Dikshit, the three-time chief minister.
Vishwas was part of the picture when Kejriwal announced the formation of AAP. Prior to that, he was a constant companion of the income tax officer-turned activist in the anti-corruption campaign that led to the birth of the party.
However, Kejriwal, it is learnt, cannot bear to be in the same frame as Vishwas now. In these circumstances, it comes as no surprise that Vishwas, AAP's poet-leader, is missing from the list of invitees to a Kavi Sammelan being organised by Delhi government on the occasion of Republic Day. Vishwas has been a regular at the event. However, his exclusion from the annual do, where Kejriwal will be present, has to be viewed in the backdrop of the bitter falling out that he has had with the Delhi chief minister.
According to party sources, Kejriwal is not answering Vishwas' phone calls or replying to his text messages. Vishwas, on the other hand, has gone public with his ire on not being nominated to the Rajya Sabha, and there is intense speculation on how soon the poet from Pilkhuwa, Ghaziabad, would part ways with the AAP. It is believed that the party's decision to nominate non-AAP individuals to the upper house of Parliament was, in fact, intended to keep Vishwas out.
Vishwas has declared that he is 'dead' in AAP, making it clear that he has no future in the Kejriwal-headed party. And there is speculation that he may soon be replaced as in charge of party affairs in Rajasthan on account of grievances by AAP leaders in the state that he is not paying adequate attention to the party's strategising for the coming assembly elections.
Close compatriots till not too long ago, Kejriwal and Vishwas are not seeing eye-to-eye, and the schism between the two erstwhile colleagues of the India Against Corruption campaign and founding members of AAP appears irreparable.
According to leaders who know both of them well, problems began when Vishwas went to Amethi in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 to offer a challenge to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. It is said that Vishwas felt he did not get adequate support of AAP leaders, most importantly Kejriwal, as he campaigned in Amethi. He felt that he was left to fend for himself in the Gandhi pocket borough even as all prominent names in the party backed up Kejriwal as he took on Narendra Modi in Varanasi.
“He felt let down. And after that, he assumed a low profile in the party,” said an AAP leader. Prior to the assembly elections in Delhi in 2015, Kejriwal, with adequate help from trusted lieutenant Manish Sisodia, who is a childhood friend of Vishwas, reached out to him and managed to bring him around to campaign for the AAP in the polls. Vishwas was one of the star campaigners of the AAP in the election in which AAP won a mindboggling tally of 67 out of 70 seats in the Vidhan Sabha.
However, after the stunning victory, as AAP formed government in Delhi, Vishwas again felt that he did not get his due. It is said that the poet-politician felt that while his fellow compatriots had been rewarded, he was sidelined. He was promised a seat in the Rajya Sabha, but events that unfolded thereafter scuttled even that, and widened the distance between him and Kejriwal.
The Delhi chief minister was getting restless with what he viewed as a discordant note being struck by Vishwas as the latter was on a different page from his party on issues like the surgical strikes across the border and the AAP questioning EVMs after its electoral losses. Especially after Vishwas came out with a video message following AAP's poor showing in the municipal elections in Delhi, Kejriwal felt betrayed. Reports alleging that Vishwas was plotting to create an upset in the AAP and was covertly challenging Kejriwal's authority reached the chief minister. It was also alleged that Vishwas was planning to go to the BJP, and take AAP MLAs with him.
“Arvind feels betrayed by Vishwas. He is convinced that Vishwas was working against him and the party,” said a leader close to Kejriwal.
The Delhi chief minister is learnt to have said to Vishwas a few months ago: “I will finish you, but I will not turn you into a martyr.” He may have done exactly that by refusing Vishwas a Rajya Sabha nomination. Vishwas is sidelined, and the support that he had in the party is also now in doubt.
The AAP witnesses the end of a friendship and a political camaraderie. Vishwas' political future in the party of which he is a founding member is all but over. But the developments have also raised questions about Kejriwal's leadership.