The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which seems to have made a habit of washing dirty linen in public through the media, ran into yet another controversy yesterday. A set of emails written in January by Shalini Gupta, who was former coordinator of AAP Global Supporters and happens to be sister of Prashant Bhushan, was leaked. Scroll.in was the first news outlet to report on them. The Scroll report says that “Gupta tacitly discouraged members from donating money to the AAP’s war-chest on the grounds that Kejriwal had fielded corrupt candidates in the Delhi assembly elections” in the emails.
The Times of India, which also reported on the leaked emails, said “confidants of AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal have pointed out the mails clearly badmouth the party before a global audience and reek of anti-party activities”. Given the seemingly explosive contents of the emails, the story was subsequently picked up by many other media organisations.
However, the email “leaks” seemed to have been rather selective. Newslaundry has in its possession the entire email trail of which Gupta’s emails were part of. According to the Scroll story, “her emails demonstrate that she was not willing to wait for the verdict of the AAP Lokpal, Admiral (retd) L Ramdas, on the suitability of 12 nominations that were being challenged”. However, Gupta in her last response to the mail trail wrote exactly the opposite:
“I think since the review process is going on, there should not be any cause for concern at this point. This is a satisfactory solution for now.”
Also, the email by Gupta wasn’t sent out to “members of the AAP Global Group, which consists of 700-800 NRI contacts of the party” as reported by Scroll but to only eight core volunteers of Chicago. One of the respondents in the email trail told Newslaundry that it was “self explanatory that the facts have been twisted”. According to the person, false stories were being routinely planted against the Bhushans.
Here, the entire email trail is reproduced.
So, did the so-called Arvind Kejriwal faction leak the emails with an intention to malign the “Bhushan camp”? Did Scroll not have the entire email trail? According to Ajaz Ashraf, the author of the story, he did not have the entire email trail. Ashraf’s response is produced verbatim below.
Several emails containing Shalini Gupta’s comments critical of AAP were being forwarded all around, including to several of the party’s leaders. The email thread I was sent was also addressed to email@example.com, which has 150-200 members, and is an adjunct of the AAP Global Support Group. I have other Shalini Guta’s emails critical of AAP leaders – and some of them were indeed addressed to the AAP Global Group.This was how AAP’s Delhi unit became aware that Gupta was tacitly discouraging volunteers from contributing money and their time to its efforts at winning the elections in Delhi.
I spoke to a Chicago-based volunteer who said he was not the least surprised to read Gupta’s emails. For well over five months before December last, she had been consistently disparaging Kejriwal at AAP gathering in Chicago. For instance, Gupta had said that Arvind “ne party par kabja kar liya hai” and that the “party is doomed.” Those unaware of the rift in the party in India were taken aback at the remarks of Gupta, who had worked tirelessly before the factional war began to simmer.
It is true the email threads I received did not contain Gupta’s remark, “I think since the review process is going on, there should not be of any concern at this point. This is a satisfactory solution for now.
But I was forwarded other email threads which I did not use in yesterday’s piece. For instance, in a March 8 email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org , Gupta wrote, “My recommendation to all of you, beyond chapters adopting constituencies, please also consider providing any support to those candidates that most inspire you. Please request bios of candidates and get to know them well so you can choose to support with full heart those you consider the most worthy.”
On the same day, she dispatched another email saying, “As many of you are thinking about adopting a Constituency for the Delhi elections, I would like to make a strong recommendation that some chapter should consider adopting the Timarpur constituency with candidate Pankaj Pushkar. Attached below is the bio of Pankaj Pushkar and we can clearly see how this man has devoted his like (life) to public good and is highly competent to hold this post.”
It can be argued that Gupta did no wrong in pitching for a particular candidate. However, the NRI volunteer who forwarded me this email said, “Out of 70 candidates, Shalini Gupta ji pushed for only 1 candidate – Pankaj Pushkar.”
It is this perceived partisanship of Gupta that NRI volunteers found galling. As the NRI volunteer wrote to me, “She actually kind of pitted against Nitin Tyagi.” This was in reference to what Gupta had written on Jan 5: “Nitin Tyagi is not in our list that has been sent to Lokpal. However since he was the campaign manager for Rajmohan Gandhi, Navendu (a volunteer) should check with him to ascertain what kind of reputation he has. I had heard a fair number of complaints about him at that time about his handling of volunteers as i was assisting Rajmohan Gandhis campaign on the ground during Lok Sabha. I had personally met him only once.”
All these email exchanges were reproduced to explain why the Delhi unit believed that the Bhushans were not working in the party’s interests.
While it is quite obvious that both the “camps” are going to use the media to plant stories against each other (as the case seems to be in this instance), some due diligence on the media’s part would help separate the signal from the noise. As for AAP, they seem to be going down the slippery slope of intra-party squabbles really fast.