Mayank Gandhi writes an open letter to Kejriwal

In an open letter, former AAP leader Mayank Gandhi urges ‘old friend’ Arvind Kejriwal to transform the party

Photo by Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

NH Web Desk

In an open letter posted on Tuesday, the day before MCD election results came out, a former AAP leader, Mayank Gandhi, urged ‘old friend’ Arvind Kejriwal to transform the party, evoking mixed reactions. Edited excerpts from the letter:

Dear Arvind,

A defeat deals a body blow to arrogance and makes the mind ready to reflect. So, the timing is appropriate.

I am addressing you as your former friend and colleague who believes that AAP can still be salvaged and become the party for alternative politics. I am reaching out to you because my agony is not just mine; but of lakhs of volunteers, donors and supporters.

We have known each other since 2003, when I was part of Annaji fast-to-death in Mumbai for the RTI etc. You have been my hero first, friend next and politician later.

I remember in mid-2012, when we both were travelling in an auto in Aarey Colony that you told me to quit my job so that I could give full time to the Anna andolan. In spite of my precarious financial situation, I quit my job.

I remember that you sent Manish Sisodia to study the experiment that we, in Mumbai, were working on for a citizen consensus candidate for Juhu in 2009. We both were working on creating a model where political candidates could be elected without using money, muscle or divisive agenda, that is, without use of caste, communal, criminal or corrupt practices.

That was exactly what AAP attempted in the 2013 and 2015 Delhi elections, successfully.

Like Anna, you were a symbol of the aspirations of an awakened nation. A symbol of the principles of participation, accountability, transparency, decentralisation and integrity. A symbol of the anger we all felt against the other parties that worked with the 4C (corruption, communalism, criminalisation and casteism). AAP became a symbol of the fight of crores of our countrymen against the corrupt parties.

Then the 2015 Delhi elections were announced. While you had around 5,000 volunteers from Delhi working part-time with the candidates; I was part of the leadership of over 6,000 volunteers from all over the country, campaigning full time for more than a month. The silent volunteers, the trusting donors, ardent supporters, tele-callers from Rural India to Global Indians contributed and even Yogendra Yadav who was our chief spokesperson contributed for AAP victory. What looked like a possible 15-20 seats to AAP suddenly became 67 seats.

Arvind, the unselfish hero who would never compromise, was dead. In his place was a politician who wanted to manipulate that support to fuel his ambition to become a PM in 2019. You and your coterie decided

  1. You will be CM but not take any portfolio and focus outside Delhi trying to create a mahagatbandhan to challenge the PM, with you as the face.
  2. Use the MLAs and senior functionaries outside Delhi to try and win more states. The lack of governance in Delhi due to this fallout was to be blamed on the LG and central government.
  3. Erase the difference between private and public money. Use public money for personal advertising, personal expenditure, fly first class, fight personal cases and whenever this gets questioned – point fingers at other parties.
  4. Win at any cost! If Swaraj comes in the way – throw it away. If appeasement works – do it. If caste politics gets you the votes – embrace it. If too many questions are asked – remove the donation list. If money is required, sell seats. Power is more important than principles.
  5. Project Kejriwal as a strong leader. Personally attack Modi at every instance so that you would appear like a daring contestant and be able to create a vote bank of anti-Modi votes.
  6. To further look like a strong leader, remove anyone and everyone from the party that has a differing point of view. As Ashutosh told me – there should be one voice only in the party and anyone opposing should be dealt in a manner that would give a message that this party deals summarily with anyone who opposes the supremo.

As a part of the above strategy, you began by removing Yogendra (Yadav) and Prashant (Bhushan) from the party with the worst possible humiliation.

When I was told that there was a gag order on informing the volunteers outside, I asked myself, “What would the real Arvind Kejriwal have done?” He would have listened to his conscience. So I did. I had to inform the lakhs of AAP volunteers about what happened in that crucial meeting, in spite of the gag order. I had the courage of conviction and was ready to be removed from the party. For me, truth was non-negotiable.

You took time to remove me. And in spite of repeated requests to not punish the superb Maharashtra team to spite me, you threw out the entire Maharashtra AAP committees down to the lowest rung in October 2015. Can Modi or Sonia remove an entire state team with just an edict? We have out beaten other parties with our arrogance and internal politicking.

I remember in one volunteer meeting in Santacruz where we had a public argument. You felt that we should not give any importance to volunteers, they were just tools. I publicly contradicted you saying that these were some of the finest humans who had sacrificed for the nation. They are NOT pawns to be used-and-thrown.

Look around you: almost all of the original volunteers who had left everything to join for the principles have been removed, quit or are inactive.

Get back credible and independent people in the core team. For now, forget your national ambitions and focus on governing Delhi well, that is your only chance of staying relevant. Stop dramas and blaming. We still need the principles; we still need to fight corruption; we still need to fight against criminalisation of politics. We still need to fight against caste and communal politics. The parties that use these tools are still around. Our AAP was formed to fight that. But, for that, AAP needs to transform.

The country needs heroes. Are you one? The battle is between your ego and the nation. What will you choose?



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