AAP grabs national attention; volunteers, funds pour in

AAP grabs national attention; volunteers, funds pour in

DELHI/ BANGALORE: Within 23 days of its stunning debut in the Delhi assembly election, the appeal of Aam Aadmi Party appears to have spread across the country, from north to south, west to east. Donations are pouring in and volunteers are lining up to join the party, including some senior corporate leaders who are chucking up prized jobs to work with AAP.

In Bangalore, V Balakrishnan, the Infosys board member once seen as a future CEO, who quit the company last month, said on Wednesday he had joined AAP. In Mumbai, banker Meera Sanyal, the Harvard Business School-educated head of Royal Bank of Scotland, has quit to join AAP. Adarsh Shastri, grandson of former Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, resigned as head of sales for Apple in western India to join Kejriwal.

And donations to AAP have spiraled. On Wednesday, the party had collected almost Rs 38 lakh from online donations till 10pm. This has been the highest collection in a day so far, barring two days - one when Shanti Bhushan donated it Rs 1 crore and another day when a Singapore-based sympathizer had sent in Rs 50 lakh.

Until the Delhi elections, AAP was receiving on an average Rs 6-7 lakh a day. It stopped collections once it reached its target of Rs 20 crore. Fund collection resumed on December 13, when the party formally announced its intention to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Since then, the average collection has been around Rs 17.5 lakh a day.

The number of people flocking to the party has seen a dramatic rise. Since December 8, 2013, when the Delhi election results were announced, 3.03 lakh volunteers have joined AAP across the country and over 1 lakh have become members. "These figures are of those joining online and don't include volunteers and members who have registered manually at party offices. The party's membership fee is Rs 10 but people below 18 years of age cannot become members. Similarly government officials cannot become members. Such people instead register as volunteers," said Ankit Lal, who handles AAP's online campaign.

One of those joining online is Balakrishnan, who was on the CEO track at Infosys before he quit. He told media on Wednesday that he had paid the Rs 10 AAP membership fee but said it was too early to talk about his role in the party. Balakrishnan's entry into AAP pits him against his long-time Infosys colleague Nandan Nilekani, who is tipped to be the Congress candidate from the South Bangalore in the LS elections. Balakrishnan described AAP as the most successful startup ever by an IIT-ian and said he wanted to be part of the revolution that AAP was bringing about in the country.

AAP's online campaign, managed by a young and tech-savvy team, is rarely short of ideas. The most recent — one of the reasons for the spike in collections on Wednesday - was a simple message: 'Donate Rs 2014 in the year 2014'. Till 10pm, 1,273 people had donated Rs 2014 or more. "It started with one volunteer wanting to donate Rs 2014 to mark the New Year. We decided to put it up on the party page and it seemed to have caught the fancy of a lot of people," said Lal.

AAP suddenly grabbing national attention hasn't gone unnoticed by political parties, with leaders either racheting up their criticism of the newbie or acknowledging the potency of AAP's politics. On Wednesday, Congress's Mumbai MP Sanjay Nirupam took a cue from the Delhi government's decision to slash power tariff by threatening to launch an agitation if the Maharashtra government too didn't cut electricity charges.

In neighbouring Goa, chief minister Manohar Parrikar - an IIT alumnus like Kejriwal - appeared to be praising the AAP leader at a time when some of his colleagues in Delhi have sharpened their criticism of AAP, possibly because they feel more threatened by it. Parrikar said, "He (Kejriwal) has shown the right intent. Let us see if he can deliver."

CPM general secretary Prakash Karat on Wednesday said his party considers AAP to belong to non-Congress, non-BJP political forces — a space that CPM seeks to create and promote. He said any alliance with AAP would depend on how it evolved on the political and policy platforms, on whether it would be anti communalism and against "neo-liberal economic policies".

In Ahmedabad, former BJP MLA Kanu Kalsariya, a gynaecologist who had led the agitation against Nirma's cement plant in his Gariadhar constituency, joined AAP on Wednesday. He admitted that he was about to join Congress, but now saw AAP as "a symbol of people's power."

There have been reports about BJP and Congress being worried by the new kid on the block. For starters, they joined hands to quickly pass the Lokpal Bill. Since then, Congress leaders like Digvijay Singh have claimed that AAP's programme was similar to that of Rahul Gandhi's, while the BJP brass has reportedly met to assess the impact of AAP in the coming LS polls. 


Source : Times Of India

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