Kejriwal and the AAP prepare for Lok Sabha 2014, to sift through thousands of applications
On the first day of 2014, while much of Mumbai nursed their hangovers, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with their New Delhi success, held a press conference in Andheri (E)
The Sahar road to Chakala, where the conference was held, was packed with television vans.
The rickshaw driver ferrying this reporter to the venue, asked about what was going on. When told that it was an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) meet, he said, "Kaun? Woh Kejriwal party? (Who? The Arvind Kejriwal party?) Mujhe Kejriwal saab se milna hai." (I want to meet Kejriwal).
That, perhaps, more than all the number-crunching, is a barometer of how this party has captured the imagination of the common man. Now, with men and women, common and the not so common, hankering to join the party, the AAP stated that it had got nearly 73,000 applications for the Lok Sabha elections to be held mid-year in the country.
At the conference they also outlined their plans for Maharashtra and Mumbai. Here, AAP secretary and spokesperson, Preeti Sharma Menon, speaks about candidates for the party, a new kind of politics, the common-man platform and what AAP means for other major political players.
With so many filling out forms, aspiring to be AAP candidates for the Lok Sabha elections, what are the parameters by which you are going to choose people?
AAP: We welcome people who are non-corrupt, non-criminal and non-communal. The aspirant should be aligned to our ideology of rebuilding the nation. Those are the only criteria.
Is it possible to check the background of so many candidates?
AAP: It is a mammoth task. A team has been set up to screen the applications in Delhi and the screening will be a joint effort of the Centre, State and District Committees.
While the ‘aam aadmi’ plank certainly touches a chord with people, not all ‘aam aadmis’ are clean or non-corrupt. How would you ensure that a person who joins your party is truly ‘clean’ and non-corrupt?
AAP: Our form requires the candidate to give extensive details about their assets, criminal cases and many more details. Besides, the local team will analyze their public image. So, overall, it will involve extensive research.
The common man does not have political knowhow. By taking in total novices, however noble the intentions, isn’t there a danger of becoming an object of ridicule, since you might become a party with little know-how about governance?
AAP: Governance is not rocket science. Indians run large firms, do breakthrough innovation, they can surely run the government. Besides, the bureaucrats have the subject matter expertise, they just need to be directed to work in an honest way. And other expertise can also be acquired.
The AAP has taken outside support of the Congress, leading to criticism. Comment.
AAP: The AAP has formed a minority government. We did this because it is what the people of Delhi wanted. We have made our non-negotiable agendas very clear so there will be no question of coalition pressures. The day we fail to pass our agenda, we will exit and go back to the people. For us, bringing about a change is more important, not being in power.
By promising so much to the people of Delhi, isn’t there a danger of disappointing people or failing to live up to expectations? Is evolution, in the end, better than the revolutionary rhetoric of the AAP? After all, it is very early days yet in politics...
AAP: The nation has had enough of this so-called evolutionary process. It has been over 65 years and the basic roti, kapda, makan issues have not been resolved. It is time to take urgent steps towards change. We are not here to run a political party, we are here to rebuild the nation. And the nation cannot wait.
Anti-corruption is the basis of your party. Yet party workers sully the name of the party and leaders claim they do not even ‘know’ that their party workers are corrupt. What, if a similar scenario occurs within the AAP?
AAP: This is our biggest challenge and internally we are going to be very stringent on integrity issues. We understand that people will be fallible, but we will prove that we have zero tolerance on corruption.
The political landscape was that 2014 is about Rahul Gandhi or Narendra Modi. Today, they talk about Arvind Kejriwal and AAP. Cause for established parties to get worried?
AAP: Certainly, it is time for all parties to be worried. AAP is a political revolution and it has made people taste participative democracy. The voters are in a mood to be unforgiving of corruption, false promises and high-command rule.
When will you announce the final candidates for the Lok Sabha elections?
AAP: That’s not decided yet. We have just begun receiving forms and in such large numbers. But we will try to announce them as early as possible.
This party has brought us to the cusp of adrenaline-pumping times in politics. Is all this talk about change cosmetic, or is the AAP the real thing?
AAP: I think the nation is on the brink of change. The anti-corruption movement has awakened our country. The biggest change is that good people are now keen to join politics, considered the last refuge of the scoundrel just a few days ago. This is the biggest change, it will strengthen democracy.
Aam Aadmi Party is ready to contest Lok Sabha Elections in 2014 and in Maharashtra they say, they plan to contest as many seats as possible. The party says: 'We invite nominations from all non-corrupt, non-criminal, non-communal persons who are committed to Indian Constitution and to the ideals of our party. The party will contest Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha in Maharashtra as the people need an alternative to corrupt, dynastic politics that has so far dominated the State. Which seat to contest will be largely based on two things — the strength of the organization and the quality of candidates who file their nomination'.
The AAP representatives spoke at a press conference in Mumbai, outlining their plans for Maharashtra. Some statements they made at the press meet and some answers they gave in response to questions by journalists:
>> It is not the number but the kind of candidates that we get for Lok Sabha elections which are important.
>> We are on our way to fulfilling most of our Delhi promises.
>> People say AAP ne Dhoom macha diya, nal khul gaya.
>> Today, leaders are the maalik (owners) and people are their servants; we want to change that to people becoming maaliks and leaders their servants.
>> They had stated that no clean party will beat them in Delhi; we ground them to dust, crushed their ego and pride.
>> AAP is not a party but a revolution for change in India.
>> These are days of reckoning for India.
>> If parties support us from the outside, well and good but we accept no conditions by any party.
>> Medha Patkar and Anna Hazare believe in revolution from the outside but we decided we have to jump into the cesspool to clean it up.
>> We are here to take back power and give it to the people.
>> This party does not believe in one individual but in change.
>> Today, for many in this country, politics means win votes and do lootmaar.
>> There is not much difference between BJP-RSS and Congress. While the former is overtly communal, the Congress hides and does things. Both play divisive politics.
>> We are the hope in the hearts and minds of people, it is evident wherever we go that aasha ki leher daud gayi hai (there is a frisson of excitement and hope within people).
The IIT connection
Arvind Kejriwal, seventh Delhi Chief Minister (CM) and IIT-Kharagpur alumnus, is the flavour du jour of the Indian political season. Indian politics’ latest poster boy studied Mechanical Engineering at IIT Kharagpur and graduated in 1989.
For C P Narayan, IIT Bombay alumnus and associate professor in the area of music and sound technology, it is not particularly significant that Kejriwal is an IIT alumnus. He says sharing an alma mater certainly gives one a personal sense of pride, but to think that Kejriwal is who he is because of IIT, is childish. "I feel as proud of him as I do of Narendra Modi, a tea vendor and the CM of Gujarat.
Every place of learning aspires to inculcate a sense of identity, a sense of values. The IIT is a privileged place the student fraternity here is motivated and persevering but it is the hostel life and culture that shapes the personality, much more than the classrooms. The hostel provides a fertile field for music, literature, arts and of course, politics. It is not surprising that Goa CM Manohar Parrikar takes as much pride in being the Mess Coordinator of Hostel 4 in IIT Bombay as he does in being the CM of Goa."
Kirti Trivedi, professor at Industrial Design Centre (IDC), IIT-Bombay says, "Being technologists, IITians like to solve problems; the more challenging a problem, the more intense the pleasure one gets in attempting to solve it. Arvind Kejriwal represents the deep dedication, and complete commitment to the cause of bringing true democracy and Swaraj to India, as the only way for India to find its rightful place in the community of nations. While the deeply corrupt society that India has become has always been subject of discussions in IIT, and many solutions are offered in online discussion forums, in Arvind Kejriwal we finally have someone who took it upon himself to restore the freedom which Gandhiji wished for an independent India."
- Fatema Pittalwala