New Delhi: In a move that brought into the open the schism within, Delhi's ruling AAP Wednesday ousted senior leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav from its top decision-making body, after weeks of infighting that pitted the two against Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
With 19 of the 21 members attending the Aam Aadmi Party's National Executive, 11 voted to drop Bhushan and Yadav from the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) while eight voted against, party sources said.
The two absentees included Kejriwal, who flew to Bengaluru to seek 10 days of naturopathy treatment for his persistent cold and high blood sugar.
A PAC member told IANS that there were "dignified exchanges of views" for nearly six hours at the National Executive meeting that was held in a farm house on Delhi's outskirts owned by a party activist.
"Fortunately, there were no acrimonious exchanges at the meeting," the source said. "This is our success. We had dignified exchanges of views. In all, everyone spoke what they wanted to say."
Emerging from the meeting, Yadav, a known political pundit, told the media: "As a disciplined worker of the AAP, I will try to fulfil whatever role is assigned to me to the best of my capacity."
AAP spokesman Kumar Vishwas said the National Executive had decided that Bhushan, a Supreme Court lawyer and a founder member of the AAP, and Yadav won't serve in the PAC any more, and they would get new responsibilities.
He underlined that the AAP, India's youngest political party and which stormed to power in Delhi last month with a thumping majority, remained a united force.
"Everyone (in the party) will together take it forward," he said. "We will do all we can to meet the aspirations of the people of Delhi and the country."
The National Executive also rejected Kejriwal's offer to resign as the party's national convenor. Unlike the larger National Executive, the nine-member PAC is the last word on AAP policies.
Wednesday's meeting was called after Bhushan and Yadav were accused by Kejriwal supporters of leading a virtual rebellion against the AAP leader, sparking an ugly exchange of words in the media.
Earlier, Bhushan and Yadav separately told the media that they were out of the PAC.
Bhushan said: "We have been told that for the time being we are no more in the PAC." He did not elaborate and walked away, looking somewhat dejected.
Speaking separately, Yadav said he was no more authorized to make announcements on behalf of the party.
He added: "The AAP has been formed with the sweat and labour of people. It should never dash people's hopes."
AAP sources said Yadav, who used to extensively take part in television debates on behalf of the party and act as its spokesman, might be made the head of the party's farmers wing.
Although a clear victory for Kejriwal, Wednesday's decision exposed the schism within the party that was formed only in 2012 and won a thumping 67 of the 70 assembly seats last month, crushing the BJP.
Ahead of the meeting, AAP supporters gathered at the site holding placards urging its leaders to stop bickering.
"I have come from Shamli (in Uttar Pradesh) to request our leaders not to squabble like we see in other parties but to remain united," a middle-aged man told IANS.
Others held placards that read: "It is better to be united."
On Tuesday, Kejriwal said he was "deeply hurt and pained" and said the open spat was a betrayal of the trust that the people of Delhi had put in the AAP.
"I refuse to be drawn in this ugly battle. (I) will concentrate only on Delhi's governance. I won't let the people's trust break at all."
The remarks were then seen as an attempt by the AAP chief to distance himself from some of his own younger supporters who went public with their critical remarks against the more senior Yadav and Bhushan.