All you wanted to know about the Aam Aadmi Party
"Our aim in entering politics is not to come to power; we have entered politics to change the current corrupt and self-serving system of politics forever" - Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) website.
What is the Aam Aadmi Party?
With this backdrop, and with such promises, Arvind Kejriwal and a handful of his associates gave out the trumpet call on October 2, 2012 on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, to form a party that could stand on its own to take on the other political parties, which had come together to down the Janlokpal Bill movement. The Aam Aadmi Party finally came into existence in November, 2012.
Stating clearly its intention and armed with the slogan "Ab, 'AAP' ki shakti se chalega desh", the Aam Aadmi Party soon went about the process of enrolling members, volunteers, and donors to its cause at its office in Kaushambi, Ghaziabad. It adopted the jhaadu or broom as its election symbol - a clear indicator, which the common man could identify the AAP with, for sweeping away the filth of corruption.
Members are enrolled by filling up the membership form given on the AAP's website (http://www.aamaadmiparty.org/join-us), or, you can register as a volunteer on http://support.aamaadmiparty.org/user?destination=profile-volunteer while donations can be made vide http://support.aamaadmiparty.org/ or calling the party on 9717460029. Volunteers are also asked to take the party oath of fighting against corruption.
The AAP's constitution claims that it is different in several aspects - for instance, "Every member of the Aam Aadmi party will have to follow a strict internal code of conduct or internal Lokpal. This independent body will be headed by 3 jurists and other eminent personalities with impeccable public records and will investigate charges of corruption, crime, substance abuse and moral turpitude against all office bearing members of the party. Any citizen can present proof of wrongdoing against a party member. If internal Lokpal finds the party member guilty, he or she will be subjected to appropriate disciplinary action as decided by the internal Lokpal". Or for instance, that no member of the party or MLA or MP would use the beacon on their vehicles, use an official bungalow, or seek special privileges.
Some key members of the Aam Aadmi Party:
Some key members include the prolific and most known founder member, Arvind Kejriwal - an average, bespectacled Indian with a soft demeanor. Arvind Kejriwal, born in Siwani, Haryana on August 16, 1968, began his career with Tata Steel after graduating in mechanical engineering from IIT, Kharagpur, in 1989 and quickly shifted gears to become part of the Indian Revenue Services in New Delhi's income tax department. He however gave up this job to take up social causes such as fighting corruption, establishing a strong central RTI (Right to Information) system, a clean public distribution system (PDS), etc., full time. He then started his NGO, Parivartan at Kaushambi for this purpose. He was also awarded the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award for Emerging Leadership in 2006 for his initiatives and has received recognition through other awards.
Many of the members of the national executive are leaders in their own right. Many of them had participated in fasts along with Anna Hazare and vouch their support for AAP. These key members are Manish Sisodia - a reputed TV journalist, who also undertook the fasts along with Prashant Bhushan - a lawyer who has often filed PILs taking up causes of human rights, environment issues, government servants' accountability, etc. Gopal Rai has been a student leader with All India Students Association and then was associated with the Indian Students Union as its President (also fasted) during the Janlokpal Bill movement; while Sanjay Singh has actively pursued social welfare programs related to students' rights, destitute and slum peoples' rights, etc. Pankaj Gupta, a professional engineer, who began to teach economically backward children and joined the movement; Dr. Kumar Vishwas, a well-known poet popular amongst the youth; Naveen Jaihind, who started the RTI act and Swaraj movement in Haryana, and has organized blood and organ donation camps; Dinesh Waghela, an active social and spiritual worker, being an RTI activist, he gave support to the movement; and, Yogendra Yadav, a well-known psephologist, political analyst, and social scientist, he has been associated with the Right to Education law.
Other members include Professor Ajit Jha, Delhi University professor associated with the 'Lok Rajniti Manch', who has been working on the "Panchayati Raj" system for long now; Christina Samy, an active member in Karur district of Tamil Nadu where she successfully galvanized people from Tamil Nadu against the sand mafia. She also floated a women's political party under the name 'Women's Front' (Tamil Nadu). This party fought Parliament, state legislature and Panchayat elections successfully; Professor Anand Kumar, professor of sociology in the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University, has taught in several global universities all over the world besides universities like JNU and BHU and has worked with the students' movement on various socio-political, and democratic issues; Habung Pyang - he was an information commissioner in Arunachal Pradesh, counted amongst the most strict and adept information officers in the country. He had passed strict orders against the officers not providing information and his contributions in the field of social work have strengthened political awareness in the North East states; Shazia Ilmi, a social activist who began her career as a TV journalist and has played an active role in the Janlokpal movement; Yogesh Dhahiya - a well-known farmer leader in Western Uttar Pradesh, Dhahiya has fought a long battle, both on the level of land and law, to get competitive prices for sugarcane farmers; Krishnakant Sevada (Sanjuji), a highly qualified financial administrator from Rajasthan, is a supporter of both financial and moral honesty; Mayank Gandhi, an active social worker, he has contributed largely in formulating many useful laws like the Right to Information for Maharashtra, a law relating to the transfer of Government employees, and a law relating to the Nagar Raj Bill. Right from the very beginning, he has contributed a lot in strengthening the Janlokpal bill movement in Maharashtra; Professor Rakesh Sinha, a ceramic engineer by profession, worked with TATA at Rourkela and has taught at prestigious institutions like I.I.T and B.H.U. Known as a social and political thinker, Prof. Sinha has edited "Varta" a current affairs magazine and is the founder member of an organisation, Samta; Prem Singh Pahari, who joined many political parties where he realized that these parties had no agenda for the welfare of the country and saw no future in politics. Now having seen a resurgence in the sentiment of welfare with the AAP, which is promising to change the political system of the country, he has decided to rejoin politics; Ashok Aggarwal is a social worker, who has constantly fought for the rights of the exploited by filing PILs for issues related to public welfare. He has successfully battled for getting free education for the children of economically backward sections and getting medical treatment in government and private hospitals; Illias Azmi was elected MP, twice from Uttar Pradesh and has now again joined politics giving support to the AAP; Subhash Ware was the President of 'Chatrabharati' for Maharashtra, has headed many agitations and now works alongside AAP towards changing the politics of the country;
Garnering support through all means
Soon after the formation, AAP went about garnering support nationwide through all means. It also began to register its presence on social media such as Facebook, where it already has 401,513 likes and more and Twitter, where it has gathered almost 160,000 followers. Arvind Kejriwal has also had chats on Google Hangouts to address queries not only from the common man here, but also Indians residing abroad.
AAP has managed to receive support nationwide - from not just far-flung villages and rural areas, but affluent towns and cities too in India. While its image has attracted traction from the commoners and BPL masses, some of the cities from where it has followers, range from Bangalore to Bijwasan, cities in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, Gurgaon, etc.
The tricky question of donations
Kejriwal and AAP's campaign against corruption has brought in a lot of donors and funding alike for the party. The donations range from cash, kind, and assets such as free accommodation, rental cars, laptops and computers, etc., for the contesting candidates and volunteers. The party now has a healthy bank balance, received through monetary contributions from more than 40,000 donors.
The AAP website reflects the following information quite transparently - it has received till date a total of Rs. 17.13 crore from Indian donors abroad and within the country; of this, it has received around Rs. 12.13 crore from donors within the country, while Rs. 1.80 crore has come from Indians in the US, Rs. 1.07 crore from Indians in Hong Kong, Rs. 49.75 lakh from donors in the UAE, Rs. 35.43 lakh from the United Kingdom, and Rs. 34.91 lakh from Singapore. These figures are being constantly updated.
However, all this has also invited the ire of some public elements and individuals - for example, a petition has been filed in the Delhi High Court to probe into the sources of donations received by the Aam Aadmi Party since its inception. The AAP has termed the petition as 'frivolous', but is open to the probe; the Delhi High Court has in fact, asked the government to review the party accounts 'afresh' and inform the status by December 10, in case there is any violation of FCRA (Foreign Currency Regulation Act).
AAP and the Delhi Legislative Assembly Elections
The first crucial milestone to be achieved for the AAP is a good performance at the Delhi State Elections, which are round the corner. These are being held in Delhi on December 4, 2013. The Aam Aadmi Party has currently announced the fielding of 65 candidates, all whom it claims to have clean records and with no criminal background (they are under its constant scrutiny, however); and, it has committed to declare the names of 70 candidates in all for the Delhi Legislative Assembly. These include names such as Arvind Kejriwal from the New Delhi constituency, Shazia Ilmi from R. K. Puram, Rajesh Rishi from Janakpuri, Ravi Suryan from Dwarka, and Baljeet Singh Maan from Narela.
The AAP has also put up a candidates list and invited feedback from the general public on these candidates at the following:
Address: Election Cell, Aam Aadmi Party, A-119, Kaushambi, Ghaziabad, UP: 201010
You could also call their helpline at 09718500606.
You can find the details about candidates' profile here http://www.elections.in/delhi/assembly-constituencies/aam-aadmi-party.html
Yogendra Yadav, an AAP party executive, said at a recent press conference that the Aam Aadmi Party will be putting up its National Convener, Arvind Kejriwal as the chief ministerial candidate in the forthcoming Delhi Elections. He also stated that Delhi now has a candidate it can trust. Arvind Kejriwal also commented on the passing of the Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill on December 29 in a special assembly at Ram Lila Maidan in New Delhi, after his party comes to power on December 15, 2013.
In what is being described as a brilliant masterstroke, the party has declared almost 70 manifestos, customized for each of the constituencies in Delhi. It claims that these are focused on local issues and chartered as per the demands and needs of the local people.
Will AAP win in Delhi?
Overall, the Aam Aadmi Party seems to have caught the fancy of the common man in India, who is looking forward to a change from the Congress and BJP. Both these rival parties are facing maladies ranging from infighting to the anti-incumbency factor in Delhi, particularly in the case of Sheila Dikshit, the three-time and current chief minister of Delhi. The recent ABP Nielsen survey indicated that about 26% of the votes in the assembly elections would go to AAP with 18 of the 70 seats; while his own party survey estimates that they would sweep the elections with more than 32% votes, with "Arvind Kejriwal at 36 percent continuing to be way ahead of Sheila Dikshit at 30 percent, and Vijay Goel at 23 percent in popular preference for the next Chief Minister". It remains to be seen if the BJP's declaration of Dr Harshvardhan as their chief ministerial candidate makes a difference to this scenario.
The AAP, meanwhile is not having a smooth journey, faced with teething problems such as internal tensions, removing candidates proven to have criminal backgrounds, etc. But this is to be anticipated of course, before it further streamlines its processes and possibly emerges a long-term winner.
Last Updated on : March 27, 2014