AAP rift: Arvind Kejriwal visits disgruntled Kumar Vishvas, says will convince him to stay

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The fissure in the AAP today widened with senior party leader Kumar Vishvas threatening to quit over the attacks on him by a "coterie" surrounding Arvind Kejriwal. 

The flurry of developments, a day after Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan resigned from the party's Political Affairs Committee over a spat with Vishvas, plunged the poll-battered party into turmoil, almost reminiscent of the 2015 bitter public spat involving Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan.

After Vishvas defied Arvind Kejriwal’s media gag, the Delhi CM and his deputy visited Kumar Vishvas at his residence. In late night drama, CM Arvind Kejriwal and deputy CM Manish Sisodia reached out to Kumar Vishwas, despite the founding AAP member hinted of quitting the party. Kejriwal along with Manish Sisodia drove to residence of Vishwas and expressed hope that the differences in the party will be resolved.

"Vishwas is integral part of our movement. He is upset over something, but I am sure we will convince him," Kejriwal said after visiting AAP leader's house in Ghaziabad.

Amid murmurs that he wants to head the party, poet- turned-politician Vishvas said he harbours no ambitions to become chief minister, deputy chief minister or AAP national convener. Several MLAs too are in favour of a greater role for Vishvas in the AAP after the party's poor show in the Punjab Assembly and MCD polls.

They also expressed their displeasure over the "coterie" surrounding Kejriwal, as claimed by Vishvas, but pledged their loyalty towards the Aam Aadmi Party chief.

"I have conveyed this to Arvind, Manish (Sisodia) and I reiterate it today that I don't want to become chief minister, deputy chief minister or AAP's national convener.

"I don't want to join any political party or Swaraj India (political party founded by expelled AAP leader Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan). I don't know what you want to do, but I don't want to do this," Vishvas told reporters outside his Ghaziabad residence, as he turned emotional.

The AAP leader was particularly upset with Khan who had alleged on Sunday that Vishvas was plotting a coup against Kejriwal and that he was an "RSS-BJP agent".

"Had Amanatullah Khan said anything like this against Arvind or Manish, he would have been shown the door in 10 minutes," Vishvas said, adding that he, along with Kejriwal and Sisodia had dreamt of an anti-corruption movement, which later became a political party.

He said Khan was merely a "mask" behind the "coterie" hatching conspiracies against him.

"A lot of tarnishing of image will take place. Let me tell those hatching conspiracies that I will not let this happen. I will take a decision in a day," Vishvas said.

Kejriwal had sought to quell rumours of a rift with Vishvas by referring to him as his "younger brother".

Earlier, Vishvas had differed with Kejriwal on the issue of electronic voting machines (EVMs). He had refused to attribute the AAP's recent poll upsets to alleged manipulation of voting machines and had instead stressed on the need to introspect.

He had pointed out the "communication gap" between party leadership and volunteers after a string of electoral defeats in the past few months.

"I thought after six electoral defeats, I had pointed out the right reason for the debacle. The coterie was responsible (for the defeats) which was behind ticket distribution, the one who engineered the statements (given by Khan). The morale of our volunteers has taken a hit," Vishvas said, adding that several of them left their jobs for the party.

Vishvas appeared defiant despite the party's gag order of not ventilating grievances before the media and said he will keep highlighting the mistakes of the AAP and say what is right in the interest of the country.

"If by raising voice in favour of the nation my party gets upset, even then I will keep on raising these issues," Vishvas said.

He had also differed with Kejriwal over the controversy after the surgical strike and said it could have been avoided.

The BJP had accused Kejriwal of demanding proof for the strike last year.

"When the morale of our forces fighting terrorism were down and we raised questions. In that case, we need to do course correction," he said.

Reacting to this, Sisodia said Vishvas' comments are only hurting the party and affecting morale.

"He doesn't talk in the PAC. He should speak there," Sisodia said, adding Vishvas is turning this into a "personal fight".

"It would be wrong to say that only Kumar, Arvind Kejriwal and I made the party, which he has been repeating. He should speak in the PAC. He did not attend last night's PAC. I and Sanjay (Singh) had gone to meet him. Arvind has spoken to him for three hours at a stretch," Sisodia said.

Workers know which party, individuals and powers are getting benefited from Vishvas' television interview, Sisodia said, as he urged him to come to PAC and raise these issues.

Earlier in the day, several AAP MLAs, including Delhi Minister Kapil Mishra met Vishvas, seeking to pacify him.

However, it appeared to have yielded no results. (DNA)
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