The embattled Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Wednesday was struck by what their second-rung leadership has been fearing all along — a strike from within by a minister in the Arvind Kejriwal cabinet. Social Welfare Minister of Delhi Raaj Kumar Anand quit his post over what he characterised as a party’s “downfall” from an anti-corruption force to one involved in corruption, the reference being to the Delhi liquor scam for which Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is presently lodged in Tihar Jail.

“I joined AAO after seeing its strong message on fighting corruption. Today, the party has found itself in the middle of corrupt practices. That is why I have decided to quit,” said Raaj Kumar Anand after submitting his resignation.

AAP swung into damage control mode with its Rajya Sabha MP, Sanjay Singh, who has just been released on bail in the liquor scam. They asserted that Anand’s resignation only vindicates their belief that Kejriwal’s arrest was aimed at “finishing the party.”

‘Trail by fire’

Singh alleged that the BJP was using the ED and the CBI to “break our ministers and MLAs”.

“It is ‘agnipariksha’ (trial by fire) of AAP ministers and MLAs,” he said.

Delhi minister Saurabh Bharadwaj claimed that Anand may have been threatened with quitting AAP.

“Time and again we said that the intention behind arresting Arvind Kejriwal was to break the party and governments of Delhi and Punjab. Many of our colleagues might think that we will hate Raaj Kumar (Anand) and will call him dishonest and cheater. But We will not say any such thing. Not everyone is Sanjay Singh. I believe that he was scared,” Bharadwaj said.

Anand’s resignation proves that the biggest challenge for AAP is keeping the party together and saving its government. The strategy evolved so far by its second-rung leadership — Atishi Singh, Saurabh Bharadwaj, Sanjay Singh et al. — is to keep Kejriwal’s presence alive and work on evoking sympathy among the masses for what they term his wrongful arrest.

For this purpose, emotional messages from Kejriwal from jail wherein he claims that “my body is in jail but my spirit is with you” have been circulated among party members and the general public.

The biggest plank of this strategy is to keep focus on the narrative that Kejriwal has been wrongly implicated.

Kejriwal’s wife, Sunita, has been fielded intermittently to address the media and convey messages directly from the CM. After meeting her husband at the ED office, Sunita disclosed that his health is failing. Kejriwal has diabetes. His wife said his sugar levels fluctuate, but his commitment to the people of Delhi is strong. “Arvindji told me that in the past two years they (referring to probe agencies like the ED) conducted 250 raids in this so-called liquor policy case. He told me that they are searching for the money from this so-called scam... but so far they have not recovered a single paisa of illegal money,” she said.

She also quoted Kejriwal as having told her that, ‘My body is in jail... but my spirit is with you’.