Iliyas Azmi, one of the founding members of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and a two-time MP from Uttar Pradesh where he contested on a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ticket, resigned from the AAP earlier this week, citing “lack of internal democracy” in the party. Azmi was also a former member of the Political Affairs Committee (the highest political decision-making body) of the AAP. He spoke exclusively to The Sunday Guardian following his resignation from the party. Excerpts:

Q. What went wrong that you had to resign from the party?

A. The issues on which the party was formed are slowly losing importance and especially after the Delhi Assembly elections in 2015, the party had become a one-man party. I never had the intention to be a part of such a party.

Q. Soon after your resignation, you had said that the party lacked “internal democracy” and has become “highly casteist”…

A. As far as “inner democracy” is concerned, yes this party has no democracy. It only runs on the whims and fancies of Arvind Kejriwal and his close associates. I have no intention to malign the party, but I will have to tell the truth. On 27 April this year, when the National Council (NC) meeting was called and the election to the National Executive (NE) and the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) was due, they had not informed the NC members about the location and time of the meeting in Delhi. The party had also not given any information on the nomination details. However, people who the top leadership wanted to be a part of the NE and PAC were informed earlier about the details. The entire election was pre-planned by the leadership and his associates. In the NC meeting, we were just informed that 25 people had been elected; is this democracy? As far as casteism goes, Kejriwal has been favouring persons from his caste for all appointments, which is evident from his appointments in the government and the party. Minorities and lower castes do not have any place in his party.

Q. But the AAP has said that you resigned from the party as you were not re-elected to the PAC.

A. I don’t even want to be part of such an NC or PAC that does not respect its members. If I wanted, I could have attended the PAC as I was very much present in Delhi. I was very disheartened with the party leadership from the time they had thrown out Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, which is why I abstained from most of the PAC meetings.

Q. You were present in the NC at the time Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan were ousted from the NC meeting. Can you throw some light on the incident?

A. I still have no answer as to why they were thrown out, but the manner in which the entire incident unfolded is very sad. Among the nine PAC members, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were the most hard working and committed members, even perhaps more than Arvind Kejriwal. It could also possibly be because of the differences that were created between Kejriwal and Bhushan and Yadav over contesting the Haryana elections. Kejriwal possibly played vindictive politics.

Q. The AAP has also charged you of indulging in anti-party activities since 2014, because you were not given a ticket to contest the Lucknow seat during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. How do you react to that?

A. I never wanted a ticket from Lucknow, as I knew that AAP would not do well in UP.

I was myself a member of the PAC and it is the PAC that takes the decision on tickets. If I had wanted a ticket, who could have denied it?  Also, if I was engaging in anti-party activities, why did the party not suspend me then? I had also worked hard during the Delhi Assembly elections and even helped the party collect funds. I had also attended all the events they organised in Uttar Pradesh. Do they term these as anti-party activities?

Q. You had been a PAC member and it is the PAC that decides on the distribution of tickets in AAP. How fair is the ticket distribution system in AAP?

A. Ticket distribution has never been fair in AAP. First, Manish Sisodia needs to be satisfied by the candidate, in whatever way the candidate can make him happy and then Arvind Kejriwal. Only if both of them are happy, the candidate secures a ticket. For example, during the Delhi Assembly elections, 2015, an absolute majority in the PAC decided upon Haji Adan from Seelampur to be the candidate, but later his name was dropped in favour of a candidate close to Arvind Kejriwal.

Q. Would you like to rejoin the BSP?

A. No, not at all. I have not even thought of joining back the BSP even on hindsight.

Q. You have been praising Nitish Kumar in recent times, and have also met him a couple of times in the recent past. Does this mean that you could now join the JDU?

A. There is no harm in joining Nitish’s party. I know him for 25-30 years. I was present with him during the formation of the Janata Dal and I also like him. He is one of those politicians committed to his work. He does not indulge in casteism and even after spending 10 years with the BJP, he did not get influenced by the BJP. In fact, the BJP was influenced by him.

I had always liked Nitish Kumar and I would keep liking him as a person irrespective of whether I join his party or not. But I have not yet given it a serious thought; however, I would not sit back idle and would like to prepare myself for the Uttar Pradesh elections next year.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *