New Delhi: Capping their bitter campaign against Arvind Kejriwal, dissident AAP founding members Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were on Saturday removed from its National Executive for anti-party activities, a decision slammed as "murder of democracy" by them.
Amid chaos and high drama, a resolution to remove the two dissident leaders along with their supporters Anand Kumar and Ajit Jha from the powerful panel was passed at the National Council with 247 members supporting it.
10 members opposed it while 54 others did not take part in the voting, AAP National Secretary Pankaj Gupta said.
In a related development, AAP's internal Lokpal Ramdas was also asked not to attend the meet to "avoid confrontation", which was criticised by the rebel leaders.
Party Chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, after making an emotional speech, left the meeting before the resolution was introduced by his loyalist Manish Sisodia. In Kejriwal's absence, the meeting was chaired by Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai.
After the meeting, Yadav and Bhushan accused Kejriwal of using unfair means including bringing goons at the meeting who allegedly beat up a number of National Council members opposed to the resolution.
"It was a murder of democracy. Everything played out in accordance with a predetermined script and the resolution was moved and passed within minutes completely disregarding laid down procedures. It was a total farce," said an agitated Yadav.
Bhushan alleged Kejriwal came fully prepared to "kick us out" from the party and that a number of NC members, who supported him, and Yadav were injured.
"Whatever Kejriwal was heard saying in a sting yesterday was played out in the entirety in today's meeting. There was no distinction between members and others. There was no discussion, no secret vote, no showing of votes in the meeting," the eminent lawyer said.
Kejriwal loyalist Ashutosh accused Yadav of "spreading lies" that NC members were beaten up in meeting.
"YY is spreading lies that NC members were beaten up in meeting. There was no scuffle or manhandling. It's a cooked up story to gain sympathy," he tweeted.
In another tweet, he said: "Only a dozen members opposed proposal to expel them from NE (National Executive) and a few walked out of YY and PB. Overwhelming support to expel them from NE."
Bhushan also took strong exception to the party leadership's decision to not allow internal Lokpal Ramdas to attend the meeting.
"The Lokpal was not allowed inside. It was totally pre-planned. What they did today crossed all limits. It shows the mentality of Arvind and his coterie," Bhushan said.
Hours before the meeting, Yadav made public a letter, written by Ramdas to the party leadership, in which the former Navy Chief expressed surprise over the party asking him not to attend the meet to "avoid confrontation".
In the letter, Ramdas cited the SMS he received from AAP General Secretary Pankaj Gupta, in which several reasons were stated by the party for its decision to ask him to skip the meeting.
Ahead of the meeting, Yadav sat on a dharna outside the venue for around 20 minutes alleging that some National Council members opposed to Kejriwal camp were not being allowed inside the meeting.
A large number of AAP volunteers from both camps descended at the venue of the meeting at Calista resort in Kapahsera border and engaged in sloganeering against each other.
A section of the volunteers supporting Kejriwal celebrated ouster of Bhushan and Yadav after the decision was made public.
Police had to throw an escort ring around Bhushan and Yadav as the slogan shouting supporters of Kejriwal was approaching towards them after they came out of the meeting.
Heavy contingents of police and RAF have been deployed in the vicinity of the resort, where NC members were allowed inside after registering at a counter.
Members who failed to show identification, mobile number, and SMS invite were denied entry.