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On the 4th of March, 2015, a meeting of the National Executive of the Aam Aadmi Party tabled accusations against Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan for anti-party activities and ended with a vote that saw them removed from the Political Affairs Committee. In my view, this decision was undemocratic and was arrived at in an unethical manner.

Reasons:

Allegations cannot be considered evidence

A letter making allegations cannot be considered evidence either. There was no independent investigation that resulted in any establishment of guilt. That the allegations were mischievous and factually problematic has been established by AAP volunteers alarmed by this development and specifically documented in this post on Saddahaq dedicated to explicitly addressing them.

[tweetthis twitter_handles="@Vidyut, @_AamJanata"]Allegations and conspiracy theories cannot be considered evidence.[/tweetthis]

Therefore the use of the allegations and avoidance of a factual investigation in order to remove Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav from the PAC indicates an unsubstantiated and malicious action against them.

Differences cannot be resolved by attacking one side

If there were differences between two camps, a due process to resolve them would address both sides of the divide. The allegations, in the absence of establishment of guilt amount to little more than that. Yet action was initiated only against Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav by those targeting them. Their attempt to call for a re-election of a PAC with irreconcilable differences was dismissed - which would be appropriate to do in the event of differences between equals in the leadership. It would empower the larger organization to have a say on such a crucial issue. It was rejected in spite of them offering to not contest to be on the PAC again - which would definitely mean that they were not attempting to avoid being removed. As with all their other suggestions available in the public domain, this would be congruent with the party's stated values of ground up democracy.

Mayank Gandhi put it in a nutshell:

I was taken aback by the resolution of removing them publicly, especially as they themselves were willing to leave. Also, this decision to sack them was against the overwhelming sentiments of volunteers from all over the world.

The vote that was taken was manipulated

The spokesperson for AAP RAjasthan,Rakesh Parikh has gone on record saying that while the state unit did not want the removal of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, AAP National Secretary had a representative of his choosing vote in the NE resulting in the opposite vote being cast.

"Since Rajasthan convener Ashok Jainji was unable to attend, he had nominated me to go and convey our position to the PAC. But Pankaj Gupta insisted that only Sunil Agiwal, a party member, can attend. As a state unit, we had wanted this vote to be avoided, and a proper investigation on charges against Bhushan and Yadav to be done by internal Lokpal Admiral Ramdas to ascertain if allegations against them were true. Only then should action have been initiated."

[...]

"All of those who joined AAP after victory in 2013 elections have grown more influential than those of us working for the last four years. People like Ashish Khetan and others have taken over the party,"

Rajasthan convener Ashok Jain confirmed to the Economic Times that a state resolution in favour of "postponing the PAC meeting to a later day was not heeded". Pankaj Gupta also confirmed that he had suggested Sunil Aigwal to represent the party.

[tweetthis twitter_handles="@Vidyut, @_AamJanata"]Manipulating votes is neither honest nor democratic[/tweetthis]

Additionally, members of the NE, who had moved the motion against Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav consulted with two members of the Delhi State AAP (Ashutosh and Ashish Khetan, both of whom had entered the party to assume important roles directly) who had been attacking Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav publicly before dismissing their very reasonable suggestions that would put them out of the PAC without harming the party's stated ethics. It is after this consultation that the vote targeting Prashant Bhushan was taken and this vote has caused irreparable damage to the Aam Aadmi Party's credibility as well as support base, as evidenced by official role holders speaking up against it as well as drastic drop in donations.

Is this enough evidence to set aside the vote because of rigging, and for action to be taken against those manipulating organizational decisions unethically? I doubt. AAP is defending this vote against all logic now.

Deliberate withholding of information from party volunteers

It is a little ironic that one of Prashant Bhushans key issues with transparency was the lack of a mechanism to incorporate views of volunteers into the party as well as lack of transparency in party decisions by not publicly posting minutes of meetings. It is ironic because at least two of the charges leveled against them would be confirmed or demolished if the minutes of meetings and tabled documents were available to volunteers. According to information posted by Saddahaq in the post linked above, minutes of the meeting that ended up with Kejriwal's often quoted "Let's go for broke" approving the contesting of elections nationwide would establish who exactly it was that made the suggestion, and whether the final approval came from Kejriwal or not. This is among key accusations agaonst Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan.

Yogendra Yadav is alleged to have submitted a document recommending contesting a mere 100 seats. This document is also not publicly available allowing spin masters to claim whatever they wish independently of factual proof or risk of verification - depending on whether the document is as claimed.

Additionally, minutes of the NE meeting that removed Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav from the PAC are also not available.

For a party that claims to be accountable, key decisions in the party being taken in an opaque manner and official gags issued to deny volunteers information is not just undemocratic, it is a deliberate violation of AAP's claimed ethics and constitution.

Misuse of official media channels to target individuals

In the absence of allegations being proved, all that is established is a one sided targeting of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, that they have not retaliated to at any point. On the other hand, abundant first hand accounts exist of AAP leaders going public to target both of them as well as official Social Media presence being misused by the faction attacking Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav.

Sanjay Singh and Anjali Damania interviews were broadcast on television channels are are publicly available videos. Ashish Khetan, Anjali Damania and more leveled accusations on Social Media - some of which were later deleted on seeing the anger of volunteers.

Below are two accounts of official members of AAP's social media team that demonstrate how AAP's social media was misused to create a perception that the entire organization was against the two, when in fact it was merely the hijacking of control of Social Media by one faction.

Priya is a member of AAP'sSocial Media team

Guys,

I am seeing a lot of back and forth emails debating, speculating and fighting between many well-intentioned volunteers. And I feel its not right on my part not to disclose what I know. I am a member of AAP social media team. And this is what happened in that group. (As Mayank Gandhi said, I will also be kicked out of the team soon. So be it )

Things were brewing since late December. Ankit and Abhinav (the social media leads) had stopped listening to most of the team members. I personally raised the issue of too much AK glorification stuff on our national page (before & after election), but all I got was arrogant replies from Abhinav & silence from Ankit.

On March 1st, Ankit posted on our group--"As directed by the National Secretary all page roles are being reshuffled". And he took out all of our admin privileges. There was an uproar in the group about this, but Ankit didn't care.

As soon as he did that, Ankit, Ashutosh, Ashish started tweeting against YY & PB. Most of us in the group raised our objection on what's going on. Ankit, simply ignored it.

On March 2nd--Abhinav posted Sanjay Singh's press conference. All of us raised our objection for using the AAP platform to take sides. We strongly told them to post YY's interview as well. The answer we got was that, "SS's press Conf is the party's stand & YY's interview is his personal stuff". All of us fought as much as we could, but Ankit simply ignored it completely.

In short, in my opinion, a VERY SMALL section of AAP core members misused their power and hijacked the platform to kick out two whistle blowers and tarnish their personal image. (Let me emphasis again, its just a handful of people. Their control on social media a reach of 15million people just made them look like a way larger crowd).

Personally I DO NOT know if this was done with AK's knowledge or not. I am not going to speculate that. But this incident clearly shows how easy it is for a VERY SMALL team of people to take control & hijack this great organization that we all worked together. So it is very important that democracy and transparency which is THE CORE message of AAP should be instilled within the party.

None of us can afford to leave the party at this juncture AAP because then AAP would become nothing but worse than BJP/RJD/Cong/SP. All our efforts for the last 2+ years would vanish. So it is very important to raise our voice and bring democracy and transparency within the party. I hope all of you would do that.

--
Regards
Priya James

Ankit Lal's letter briefing SM heads on specific accusations to be made against Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan.

Ankit Lal's letter directing AAP's Social Media team to level accusations against Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan while presenting them as opportunists
Ankit Lal's letter directing AAP's Social Media team to level accusations against Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan while presenting them as opportunists

This letter includes as "proof" a bogus sting operation conducted months ago and debunked thoroughly by SP Singh, another journalist present at the meeting where Yogendra Yadav allegedly planted stories in media against Arvind Kejriwal. The journalist puts that "proof" six feet under, but two points alone are adequate to demolish its credibility as an accusation.

  1. If media briefing was done to three journalists, how come only one published the information? The other two were too stupid to recognize a scoop when they received it in a specific off the record meeting?
  2. SP Singh had also received a call asking about his meeting with Yogendra Yadav, which asked him about the "planted" story and he had replied then itself that the journalist would have had other sources. So those doing the "sting" were clearly aware that the information had probably not come from Yogendra Yadav, yet see no hesitation to use it months later as "proof" to achieve their malicious agenda.

There is a letter by Shashank Kumar who has worked on the ground as well as designing the AAP Manifesto, Delhi Dialogue campaign and other graphics and design support. He contributed to the hashtag #UnitedAAP after being alarmed by AAP leaders viciously attacking Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav and seeing the toll it was taking on the cohesiveness of the party. The whole letter is well worth a read. It names AAP leaders acting to destroy the party from within and how. At no point does he claim that Prashant Bhushan or Yogendra Yadav are innocent, merely insists on a proper investigative process like the thousands of others infuriated by this witch-hunt playing out.

NRI volunteers had started the "ghanti bajao" campaign in the absence of a mechanism to register volunteer views, where volunteers called the members of the NE directly to express their displeasure over the factionalism. They had also recommended that the NE meeting be videotaped and the footage to be under the control of Admiral Ramdas to be made public if necessary in the event of a dispute. What is sad is that no one in the NE apparently has made a sting video. Would have cleared many things.

Admiral Ramdas on his part had seen this brewing and had written a letter warning against exactly this outcome.

All wisdom discarded, the faction targeting PrashantBhushan and Yogendra Yadav went ahead with their vendetta in the most dramatic manner possible ignoring even offered methods of doing it in a manner that would not harm Aam Aadmi Party.

And now those leaders are busy explaining how this was the right thing to do, and in their mythical Swaraj, the furious voices of supporters are just so much noise to be conned with mumbo-jumbo like "ardha satya" (half truth) or "anti-party activity" and to "wait" - clearly meaning wait for an answer you won't get, but hopefully your anger will be defused enough for us to bear no consequences. The gag on releasing information to volunteers who built the party remains, while mysterious allusions to information behind that iron curtain continue. Information that will miraculously turn an explicitly undemocratic process into something respectworthy, apparently.

Clearly the volunteers who have invested their faith in the values of the party are not listening. This isn't going to die down. "Swaraj will prevail, or AAP will finish," a volunteer declared passionately, exhorting me to "not give up on the party and only be angry with those who did wrong instead of the whole party."

 

As if the Gulail-Cobrapost expose by journalists Ashish Khetan and Raja Choudhary, on the surveillance conducted by Guarat police of a young woman under the verbal orders of Amit Shah (who was the Home Minister of Guarat in 2009 when this surveillance happened), acting on behalf of Narendra Modi were not enough, the BJP appears to have abdicated all interest in even a superficial interest in the law in their absurd defense of what should have been an alarming situation for them as well. screenshot from video sting of stalking Gulail and Cobrapost have released a video with selections from hundreds of recorded phone conversations and three statements made to the CBI by Gujarat IPS officer G L Singhal (who is accused in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter and currently out on bail) and a CBI Panchnama. The conversations are chiefly with Narendra Modi's sidekick, ex-Home Minister of Guarat, since arrested for encounter killings and now out on bail and handling BJP's election campaigning in Uttar Pradesh (which promptly flared in religious riots). hardly the kind of babysitter a concerned father would want spying the daylights out of his daughter. screenshot of video sting of illegal surveillance The Stalkers expose clearly establishes that the verbally ordered surveillance that deployed state police and ATS officers to conduct surveillance of a girl was neither official nor was the girl a suspect. The extent and intensity of the surveillance is stunning and the video has to be seen to be believed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roVZrT2_xuc Cobrapost's commentary on the video nails the broader issue:

The tapes indicate that for at least over a month the Gujarat Police apparatus used its sweeping powers to rigorously monitor every private moment, every personal conversation and every daily movement of Madhuri. Singhal has told the CBI that the surveillance was illegal and was carried out only on the oral instructions of Shah. The recordings reveal that Madhuri was tailed even as she visited shopping malls, restaurants, ice-cream parlours, gyms, cinema halls, hotels and airports. She was followed even when she visited her ailing mother in a hospital in Ahmedabad. When she boarded a flight out of Ahmedabad, orders were issued to put cops on the flight so that she was not out of sight even when she was flying. Strict orders were given to closely observe and profile those who met her. Shah was particularly interested in knowing the men she was meeting and whether she was alone or with some man when she checked into a hotel in Ahmedabad. Her phones and that of her family and friends were tapped. Every bit of information was conveyed to Shah in real time, who in turn claimed to be relaying it to his ‘saheb’. Listening to the conversations leaves no doubt that the people involved in the operation knew who this ‘saheb’ was. Such was the importance attached to the surveillance operation that many senior state police officials were instructed to personally supervise the movements and activities of the woman. Besides Singhal, who was at that time posted as a Superintendent of Police with the ATS, the then IG (Intelligence) A.K. Sharma, the then Deputy SP (CID Intelligence) DB Vaishnav and then DCP (Crime) Abhay Chudasama were some of the other senior officers who were roped in for the operation. At present, Sharma is posted as Joint Commissioner of Crime in Ahmedabad city. While Vaishnav has retired, Chudasama is cooling his heels in jail on charges of stage-managing the Sohrabuddin Shaikh encounter. The phone recordings in possession of the CBI primarily contain conversations between Singhal and Shah. Some conversations are between Singhal and other state police officers such as A.K. Sharma, Vaishnav and the then Bhavnagar SP Rajendra Asari. All conversations were recorded by Singhal between August 4, 2009 and September 6, 2009. At many places in the tapes, Shah can be heard complaining that Singhal’s men were not doing a thorough job as ‘saheb’ was obtaining information about her movements from his independent sources and his information network was at times more efficient than that of Shah.

In a welcome, but astonishing development, the BJP, that has so far made a fine art out of claiming allegations without evidence as proof of innocence, immediately released a statement by the girl's father accusing Gulail and Cobrapost of exploiting a family matter and stating that it was he who had asked Chief Minister Narendra Modi, whom he knew personally, to "take care" of his daughter while she visited Gujarat. The sinister sub-text here is that the BJP (who released the letter) sees nothing wrong with state resources and state funds being deployed in illegal surveillance of a citizen to serve personal connections. But the obsessive attention to details by the "saheb" who now turns out to be the Chief Minister cannot be merely explained by someone doing a favor to a family friend.

illegal surveillance expose screenshot
Saheb knew that she had gone out when the people conducting the surveillance didn't.

So this release by BJP establishes several things:

  1. The "saheb" Amit Shah repeatedly refers to as having an interest in every detail about the girl is none other than Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
  2. Narendra Modi and his sidekick Amit Shah deployed state resources for illegal stalking of a woman.
  3. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah spied on her personal life and that of men she interacted with, including in at least one instance orders to prevent a man from going to Mumbai after she took a flight there and one instance of instructions to jail him if needed. None of this official, or related to any interest of the state.
  4. Phones of Madhuri and her family and friends were illegally tapped to serve the interests of a private citizen without any official procedure, reason or record.

Stalking is stalking and it does not make it prettier if it is the father ordering it from the cops through his connections with a Chief Minister.

illegal stalking by the state
Modi also seemed to be monitoring the girl through other means

Singhal's statement before CBI also states that he was verbally instructed to conduct illegal surveillance of senior ICS officer Pradeep Sharma (then Bhavnagar Municipal Commissioner). The video includes recordings of Amit Shah instructing Singhal to engage the assistance of Bhavnagar Superintendent of police Rajendra Ansari in spying of the Municipal Commissioner to find out if he was in touch with the girl and if they were meeting. ICS Pradeep Sharma had also filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court in May 2011 (2 years later) alleging that he was being framed in bogus corruption cases by the Gujarat government and the reason for this was Chief Minister Narendra Modi association with a young woman. Gulail and Cobrapost assert that the name of the woman in the petition was the same as this girl's name - which could be a coincidence, but seems unlikely.

I ant him in jail for as many days as Vanzara has been jailed for. ~ Amit Shah
I ant him in jail for as many days as Vanzara has been jailed for. ~ Amit Shah

This conversation is particularly telling. It talks about someone who seems to be evading their attention and traveling to Mumbai who Amit Shah wanted arrested for as long as Vanzara was. (Vanzara is a cop jailed for fake encounters who wrote a lengthy letter after Godman Asaram was arrested, claiming to be betrayed by the state and Amit Shah whose interests he protected and claimed the fake encounters as his patriotic duty. This happened in 2009, before the letter was written, of course. Looks like Vanzara's faith in Amit Shah wasn't that misplaced, after all, though Vanzara continues to rot in jail. Maybe Amit Shah can give him company.) Amit Shah: Did you talk? Singhal: Sir, I did and according to him surveillance cannot be done at Shahibagh by his men. Amit Shah: No no... it can be done from a distance. What is happening, where his car is, etc Singhal: Sir I have talked to them, but even then I'll talk again. Amit Shah: Or you deploy one of our men there. Singhal: Ok sir Amit Shah: Then? Singhal: I just checked his mobile location and it shows in Bhavnagar. Amit Shah: He must have left the instrument there, he was in Mumbai. Singhal: Ok sir. Amit Shah: You check it out Singhal: Sure sir... Amit Shah: He must have left the phone at home Singhal: yes Amit Shah: he has an additional number. I will ask A K Sharma to give it to you Singhal: I have taken three numbers from him and two are showing locations in Bhavnagar and I have to check the third one. Amit Shah: Two at Bhavnagar? Singhal: Yes Amit Shah: Check the third Singhal: Yes, I will check it. Amit Shah: Where is the sister? Singhal: She is sitting near at Navrangpura near Havmor Amit Shah: With the same boy? Singhal: With the same boy. Amit Shah: I want him in jail for as many days as Vanjara has been jailed for. Singhal: yes sir Amit Shah: You be brave. No matter how big the person, put him in jail The tape goes on and on as it follows the girl literally everywhere and there is no way that this is not stalking. The fact that the father has clarified that he asked for this surveillance of his daughter from Modi makes it nothing more than the father ordering an illegal spying of his daughter - would hardly be the first time for parents to gang up with misogynist thugs to monitor and control the social interactions of girls. That the state was used to do this is only doubly horrifying. The fact remains that the girl was an adult professional and perfectly capable of asking for help if she needed it as well as answering questions about where she went and who she met if she wanted her father to know it. My guess is that the father's letter was a hastily thought up cover up by the BJP that has backfired, since I cannot imagine the father conveniently having an issue with ICS Pradeep Sharma as well, who very conveniently was targeted by the state in bogus corruption exposes - as per his petition in the Supreme Court. If the state went to the extent of filing bogus corruption cases against a Municipal Commissioner as a part of "taking care" of the daughter of a personal friend of the Chief Minister, it is even more horrendous. But I doubt that is what happened. What is clear is that regardless of the motive, a girl who was not a suspect in a crime and indeed was promoted as "protected" by the Chief Minister was comprehensively stalked in a way that would fit in a thriller - and not in the character of the good guy. No way how BJP tries to spin this, they seem to have admitted, indeed advertized that the person pulling the strings in this abuse of this woman's rights was Modi. Rajnath Singh has gone on record defending these actions and blaming Cobrapost for the sting instead.

The girl's father has also given a statement that he had asked Modi, with whom he had family relations, for security for his daughter. The head of the government is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of the people. Modi was only performing his dharma. ~ Rajnath Singh

Perhaps it is time that along with election speeches, BJP listed out the laws it is willing to respect and the ones it will break at will when it gets the whim to harm citizens.

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