BENGALURU: Contesting for the first time in Karnataka in 28 seats as it is, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hopes to usher in a change in the electoral politics here, which they say is riding on ‘money and caste’ power. They hope to win in double digits and turn them into model constituencies.Their mode of campaigning is innovative and a lot different, with the party going for public donations, crowdfunding and contributions from the voters to run their individual campaign in different parts of the state. “Volunteers are giving both time and money, and when they campaign for us, they do it with passion and conviction,” a candidate revealed.
AAP has decided to contest from only 28 seats, and has not entertained rejects from other parties. After a rigorous selection process, they have put up 1-3 candidates in 10 districts. AAP’s list of candidates includes activists, retired officers, social workers, businessman, community leaders, IT professionals and executives, and a scientist, who are all “committed to the AAP ideology”.In Bengaluru, AAP is contesting 11 seats and Prithvi Reddy, the state convener, is contesting from Sarvagnanagar. “I go on a cycle for campaigning and people are surprised. K J George, my Congress opponent – not used to competition – cannot believe that someone can raise a voice against him. Imagine 50 metres from George’s office is a mini-Mandur and till date, he has done nothing. Unfortunately, there is neither talk of corruption nor focus on real issues. We are the guys on ground, as you can hardly see any other party campaigning.”According to AAP, their candidates are ordinary people with extraordinary background. Their Shantinagar candidate Renuka Viswanathan, a retired IAS officer, was instrumental in launching National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. While Shivajinagar candidate Ayub Khan is an auto-rickshaw driver. AAP candidate from KR Puram, Lingaraj Urs (Devraj Urs’ grandson), is former president and director of Genisys Software.
A peek into rural candidates
Abdul Hameed Shaikh, who travels every day from Vijayapura to Devarhippargi to campaign, is a retired government official. Santosh Nargund, who is contesting from Hubballi-Dharwad Central seat, is an engineer, defence scientist and an activist.The convener adds, “Good people are fighting from our party but it is not easy to get people to fight, as many shy away from this tough contest and that is the reason only 28 are contesting on the AAP ticket.”
Unlike other parties, people are funding their campaign. With candidates active on social media, many candidates generate funds through crowdfunding. Their expenses are minimal as campaigning mostly involves door-to-door visits and distribution of pamphlets.AAP Political Affairs in-charge Shivakumar adds, “Wherever our candidates have contested, people have come forward to donate money through various modes, as some have provided vehicles while others have organised food for our volunteers. In rural areas, money spent by a candidate may amount to Rs 10-12 lakh while in urban areas, it may be Rs 15-20 lakh. Being a volunteer-based party, not much money is needed by our contestants.”
In Bengaluru, it is a gruelling schedule for the 11 contestants as their day begins at 6 am and goes on till 9 pm. Most of them are going from house to house, meeting voters – spending time with them, chatting to families, listening to their problems and organising street plays at specific timings to attract more number of voters. On Tuesday, Delhi Transport and Food Supply Minister Imran Hussain and legislator Alka Lamba campaigned in Sarvagnanagar and Shantinagar.
Apart from the state manifesto, AAP prepares manifestos for each constituency. Even for wards, the party has come out with a list of specific problems. The manifestos were prepared after a detailed survey by experts and eliciting people’s opinion, says Shivakumar, and adds, “Apart from the state manifesto, we have prepared 28 manifestos that is, one for each constituency. Even wards have their own manifestos to address locality-specific problems.”