Watching Gopal Rai talk about Kumar Vishwas brought back the memories of past couple years!
It was Feb 2016 when I took on the responsibility of Secretary at AAP USA. With KV assigned the overseas charge, I was excited. Weeks passed by after the announcement, but there was not a word from KV on what goals to set, etc. KV’s style has been one way speeches via google hangout and he never took any questions from volunteers.
Later, when a major Punjab leader was touring USA, there was a sudden push from KV’s office. The focus was on ensuring that a specific picture be used on flyers and collaterals: the one where KV is standing by AK waving his hand and flower petals falling on him. Little discussion about what we wanted to accomplish. I was getting uncomfortable. More than organizing events in US with specific objectives, the pressure was to promote KV. The frenzy peaked when KV released the “Kick Nasha” album.
In mid-2016, overseas volunteers working for Punjab had many questions and feedback. KV was informed about it but he preferred to ignore. Staring at the volunteer engagement void, I decided to brace up with few other passionate volunteers and initiate a series of 2-way conference calls with leaders from the party. The call with Satyender Jain was the first in the series, and it went well. A call with Sanjay Singh was next. I vividly remember that day. Sanjay Singh was dealing with an emotional turmoil with his mom in the hospital. I offered to postpone the call, but Sanjay Singh said he’ll manage, it was important to address volunteers’ questions adequately. After the call, several Punjab USA AAP volunteers called me to express their happiness that observer from Punjab took every question and answered well. It felt great! However, by the evening, my happiness turned into gloom when I discovered that KV was unhappy about inviting SS. I was told that I did a mistake organizing call with SS. Given the party was way too busy with elections, I decided to let it pass.
During that time, overseas volunteers were providing valuable information, data and feedback. Numerous emails were sent to KV, not a single email got any response.
By end of August & early September, the pressure was on me from core Punjab volunteers to start calling campaign asap and build momentum. I drove down to Sacramento, California late in the night at 11pm after concluding AAP USA National Executive meeting and was happy to see around 25 enthusiastic volunteers waiting to get started. However, I was warned by Kumar Vishwas to not start the calling campaign. I was dumbfounded and shocked. It was painful for me to see the volunteer energy fizzle out. Punjab calling campaign happened much later at the fag end of election campaign and had very little impact.
In few overseas teams, it was frustrating to see two parallel structures pitched against each other. The convener of Canada was publicly hounded by groups; KV chose to remain silent. NZ convener chose to resign. The heightened chaos confused many Punjab volunteers who came into AAP forum with great hope. Some chose to quietly leave and others got sucked into the filth. Punjab volunteers, warriors of sort, still pushed hard despite the odds. Many used to call me to say that there is a historic moment in Punjab and that Punjabis are closer to seeing a day justice will be done and that AAP is one last hope.
By the end of December 2016, suddenly, KV jumped into the limelight. Messages from KV in the internal convener and secretary discussion group were mostly about who gets the credit for Punjab if the party wins. A warning message was even posted on the topic of credits in the group. It was depressing to see the behavior and attitude of a senior leader in the party who presents a completely different picture outside.
On the day Punjab results were announced, I visited KV’s house in Delhi. Kapil Mishra was there too. KV said that he was not interested in talking to me and walked upstairs along with KM. The language and abuses KM hurled at AK backed by KV while going up the stairs were unbelievable. Until then, I used to tell myself all the time that I’d better not worry about petty things and rather focus on bigger mission.
Few days later, KV’s video titled “We The Nation” showed up which took shots at AK indirectly. It reminded me what transpired with KM and KV during my visit to his house. I visited KV house yet again. This time the conversation lasted for over an hour. KV chose to abuse Arvind Kejriwal, Satyender Jain and specially Sanjay Singh.
Weeks later, all throughout the Kapil Mishra saga, I kept agonizing about Kumar Vishwas. I couldn’t forget what had transpired at KV’s house during my visits and what he was trying to do. Listening to him ask questions about accountability for Punjab and Goa, I wished someone asked him about his accountability as the Overseas convener!
In July 2017, KV planned his poetry concerts in multiple cities in Canada and USA. Efforts were made to subtly apply pressure on AAP volunteers to attend his shows. I was advised by some overseas volunteers to be cautious about KV shows as there were some unpleasant experiences earlier. Still remember an AAP volunteer concerned about losing money because he did not turn up to the show quoting flimsy reasons. Far worse, while in Bay Area, California, KV advised me to bring AAP volunteers to his show and that he can think of a AAP volunteer meetup in a phone conversation. I was completely baffled.
How can good politics survive if it is about zero respect for volunteers, creating parallel groups, pitching volunteers against each other, using AAP network to discredit AK by promoting hyper-nationalism videos, one way bhashans, self promotion, stopping initiatives that could have helped Punjab/Goa campaign, discouraging 2-way conference calls, using volunteers for private concerts, stooping low for credit grabbing, escapism on and on. Disappointing & Depressing to say the least.
While Kumar Vishwas says party was formed by Kumar Vishwas, Manish Sisodia & Arvind Kejriwal, I never heard Arvind and Manish say this ever. They know party is formed with the help of volunteers not by the power of few individuals. Back to basics means respecting the volunteers and not treating them like cheerleaders who can help maximize youtube view count and retweets. It is about owning responsibility for electoral performances as an Overseas convener & PAC member. We the Nation doesn’t mean claiming oneself as better nationalist than Arvind Kejriwal. It means mutual respect beyond barriers and solving peoples problems.
Kumar bhau, you think politics is about perception and that you can win around with your oratory skills and the always-in-demand sauce of Nationalism. You think volunteers are innocent and good people hardly dare to talk. But bhau, you are mistaken. Not a whole lot would chose to talk, some might be wondering what to do, but seeing your fans & your paid PR team trolling Arvind Kejriwal by retweeting — “Jo chup rahenge, itihaas unse hisaab mangega.”, I decided to stand up and talk against your bully. Arvind is not alone. Millions are with him and I stand by him.
AAP Volunteer & Secretary, AAP USA
A brief about my involvement with AAP so far.
I am like any other volunteer of AAP who started with a dream of better politics. Just that it was a continuation of dream because I was also volunteering for Loksatta Party started by an IAS officer JP. For me in 2011, IAC & Arvind Kejriwal touched my nerve and the idea of AAP he presented had immense power. A friend of mine and I registered the www.aamaadmiparty.org in 2012 as we knew politics is the only way out. I could further innovate on AAP forum by creating a call campaign initiative called emc3 which got popular because of millions of passionate volunteers around the world. I to date continue to do my little bit for AAP.