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Les Leyne: After being disqualified from NDP leadership race, Appadurai on way to political martyrdom

The blow-by-blow account of the specific violations is about how environmental groups bypassed the NDP’s rules on membership signups and worked to park Green Party members in the NDP just for the vote.
B.C. NDP leadership candidate Anjali Appadurai at a news conference in Vancouver, Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Anjali Appadurai has a clear avenue toward political martyrdom. She’s the bright, committed young underdog who scared the NDP establishment so badly they decided late Wednesday night to disqualify her from the party’s leadership race, saying she broke the rules.

There’s something that needs to be cleared up, however, before people buy into that narrative about Appadurai and the environmental groups that helped engineer her leadership bid.

It’s about a theme that runs through the party’s indictment of her campaign, written by former NDP cabinet minister Elizabeth Cull, who is the party’s internal chief electoral officer. It lists all the rules that Cull said were broken.

But it also dwells on concerns that Appadurai’s campaign is riddled with disingenuous obfuscation, failed to display honesty or candour, failed to take responsibility for obvious problems with the membership signup and was inconsistent, contradictory and evasive.

All the problems were presented to her over the past 10 weeks. But Cull found: “The campaign’s responses reflect a lack of candour and transparency which reflects poorly on the candidate’s integrity.”

The word “fraud” appears more than a dozen times in the report.

The blow-by-blow account of the specific violations is about how environmental groups bypassed the NDP’s rules on membership signups and worked to park Green Party members in the NDP just for the vote.

They are also accused of breaking the law by throwing resources behind her campaign that were not publicly declared, while Appadurai downplayed the party’s concerns and shrugged off responsibility.

Those are serious by themselves.

But the drumbeat of doubts throughout Cull’s report about Appadurai’s integrity and her “distressingly lackadaisical attitude” to her obligations is equally serious.

Appadurai fired back at the NDP after it leaked Cull’s report, saying she’s “never been treated fairly” by the party and there was “consistent, relentless bias” against her campaign.

She said party election rules are being reinterpreted and then applied retroactively to raise suspicions about her campaign. Her initial membership drive arose spontaneously before she was officially in, but the party is now applying campaign rules to it, she said.

The NDP may have had its own political reasons for piling on the doubts about Appadurai’s character in order to scorch her bid. After all, she tried a hostile takeover. Fire is generally fought with fire.

The conclusion that, by random sample, 25 per cent of the new memberships sold during the race were invalid because those people also belonged to other parties, like the B.C. Greens, establishes that the list is now corrupted.

That would have been enough to cancel her leadership bid. Raising additional doubts about her honesty could be an effort to derail whatever move she makes next in the eco-political arena.

Alternatively, the concerns could be legitimate based on the evidence collected. It would take a more independent arbiter than Cull to decide that.

Either way, Appadurai has a lot of work to do to counter the character questions raised.

She is clearly intent on accomplishing just that. She pleaded her case passionately to the brass. She appealed publicly late Wednesday for continuing support and appears to be getting some. A few of her new members are voicing their concern at the riding association level.

While the family fight is now at the dish-smashing stage, the bigger question is what Elections B.C. thinks of all this.

It only has partial authority over leadership contests. It’s confined mostly to scrutinizing declarations of donations and expenditures. (That’s likely to change after this debacle.) It was invited into the fray weeks ago. Cull has turned some evidence over to that office. It has opened an investigation that could have even more serious ramifications than Cull’s did.

Subject to further astonishing twists and turns, David Eby looks to be the next party leader and premier of B.C.

He has always had at least two major responsibilities during his time in cabinet. That multi-tasking experience will come in handy, because he’ll be dividing his time between governing B.C. and trying to plaster over the spreading ruptures in the NDP.

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