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Delhi Assembly Poll: Is Kejriwal Drifting Away From Old Friends?

By Alok Singh

Is AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal slowly drifting away from his old associates and gravitating towards a new set of aides for advise and consultation in order to project a new image for his two-year-old party? His recent public appearances and press conferences seem to suggest so as some of the key leaders who have been with the party since its inception are no longer seen close to Kejriwal.

Leaders like Prashant Bhushan, Manish Sisodia and Kumar Vishwas – co-founders of the party – who once were the former Delhi chief minister’s go-to men, are no longer seen close to him and are learnt to have been replaced by relatively new entrants in the two-year-old party.

If media briefings of late are anything to go by, new equations seem to be emerging in the AAP. Sisodia, an old time friend of Kejriwal, and the AAP’s key strategist, Yogendra Yadav, no longer flank Kejriwal at press briefings.

At a recent press conference here, journalist-turned-politicians Ashutosh and Ashish Khetan sat next to Kejriwal, while Yogendra Yadav was seated in the last row.

Sisodia was missing. His absence was glaring at the Delhi Durbar that Kejriwal launched on Saturday to connect with the people ahead of assembly polls expected early next year.

Another AAP leader, Kumar Vishwas, is also conspicuous by his absence from party meetings.

Sources in the party told IANS: “In the last five high-level meetings of the party, Vishwas was missing.”

In spite of repeated attempts, Vishwas did not respond.

Sources in the party said the poet-turned-politician, who contested against Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, “was not happy with Kejriwal as he spent less time in Amethi before the (April-May) general elections”.

Vishwas was a prominent member of social activist Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement before he joined the AAP on its inception Nov 26, 2012.

Kejriwal, however, said Vishwas will soon be seen. “Vishwas is with us but these days he is busy with his shows. You will see him in coming days,” Kejriwal told IANS.

Another former aide, Iliyas Azmi, has accused Kejriwal of destroying the party.

Shazia llmi, once a prominent face of the party, has fallen out with Kejriwal, saying he is surrounded by a “clique”.

She is said to be in talks with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The AAP’s chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming Delhi assembly polls, however, denies any bickering in the party.

“No bickering is there (in the party)” Kejriwal told IANS, dismissing any such speculation.

(Alok Singh can be contacted on alok.s@ians.in)

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