New Delhi: Four years in politics is a long time. On his electoral debut, as cadre milled with activists, outside the old Aam Aadmi Party office in Ghaziabad, Kumar Vishwas would step out on to the balcony with a mic in hand to announce unsurmountable lead taken by Arvind Kejriwal over the then Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. “Arvind Kejriwal, New Delhi se 10,000 vote se aage!” (Arvind Kejriwal is leading from New Delhi by 10,000 votes!” Vishwas would announce to the cheering crowd.
Now cut to 2017, the two leaders who have not been on talking terms since the Punjab election campaign may be preparing for a showdown early next month as AAP prepares to finalise its nominee for the three Rajya Sabha seats from Delhi.
With an overwhelming majority in Delhi, AAP can nominate three MPs to RS. Vishwas has openly staked the claim for a seat but sources indicate the party may disappoint him yet again.
That Vishwas has been trying to build a case to confront the leadership can be traced from his statements after poll debacles in Punjab, Goa and Delhi by-pols.
After reports emerged of a rift between the two, Kejriwal took to Twitter to write, "Kumar is my younger brother. Some people are trying to create a rift between us. Such people are enemies of the party. They better mend their ways. No one can separate us."
When the crisis deepened and it looked like Vishwas would not buckle, the Delhi Chief Minister had to go to Vishwas's residence to pacify him. "Naraz hai, milne ke liye aaya hoon, (He is upset, I have come to meet him)" a smiling Kejriwal told reporters outside Kumar Vishwas's house before he went in for a dramatic midnight meeting.
Soon, images of Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and other senior leaders meeting a miffed Vishwas flooded TV screens. Vishwas looked defiant with his hands behind his back while a despondent-looking Kejriwal stood at a distance.
In October, in an exclusive interview with News18, Vishwas had said, he believed that “personal relations between leaders shouldn’t influence the party’s affairs. But what I will say is that those who have been with us since the days of the Anna movement should be fearless and speak the truth. They should say what is right and what is wrong.”
The relationship was tested yet again last month, during the party’s National Council (NC) meeting when Vishwas was denied a speaking slot.
Although, Manish Sisodia reached out to Vishwas yet again to sooth his bruised ego by personally inviting him to speak.
And now just a week ahead of the RS nominations, on Thursday, a group of Aam Aadmi Party volunteers, all donning the AAP cap, reached the party’s headquarters on Rouse Avenue, New Delhi. Amidst chants of ‘Humara Vishwas, Kumar Vishwas!’ (Our faith lies with Kumar Vishwas!), they demanded that Vishwas be sent to the Rajya Sabha.
“Given the current situation in the country, where the PM and government are fooling the people on a daily basis, the country and the party need a strong voice in Parliament. Who better to take on the government than Kumar Vishwas?” said Omendra Bharat, an AAP worker.
My sincere appeal to @AamAadmiParty volunteers gathering at party office, Pl refer to my Nov 26 appeal,Country first,Party next and Person last.Fight for Swaraj, BackToBasics, Trasparency but I won't appreciate any unrest in my name.Abhimanyu is a winner,even if killed👍🇮🇳 — Dr Kumar Vishvas (@DrKumarVishwas) December 28, 2017
Despite the show of strength, party insiders say Vishwas’s chances of making a cut to the Rajya Sabha are slim.
While names of several other party leaders, such as Ashutosh and Sanjay Singh, are also doing the rounds, party sources suggest the AAP may surprise everyone in its final selection. Candidates, infact may be announced on the last day of the nominations to leave little time for the disgruntled elements to protest.
An AAP MLA said, “The party is considering picking complete outsiders. The idea is to get people who are experts in their fields so that they can corner the Modi government. This will raise the party’s appeal nationally as a party that is interested in policy. That is why we made an offer to (former RBI Governor) Raghuram Rajan, although he politely declined our offer.”
When asked if a decision on the Rajya Sabha nominees would come soon, AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said in a stock response, “The decision will be taken by the PAC. You will all know soon enough.”
An AAP source close to Kumar Vishwas said the deterioration of the Kejriwal-Kumar relationship began with the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
“Arvind took all party workers to Varanasi for his own campaign. Vishwas, who was contesting from Amethi, was left to fend for himself. The party had three founding members who are still around – Kejriwal, Vishwas and Manish Sisodia. Kejriwal is CM, Sisodia is Deputy CM, but what did Kumar Vishwas get?”
Vishwas finally seems to be seeking his pound of flesh from Kejriwal in the RS nomination. His friendship with the Delhi Chief Minister hangs by a fine thread which may break anytime soon.