Over 100,000 members have joined the party’s state unit, says Praveen Bose
The Aam Aadmi Party is stretching itself to register people keen on taking up membership of the party in the states, and Karnataka, especially Bangalore, is seeing a humongous response, according to the party.
“Since the Delhi elections, we have registered over 100,000 members in Karnataka alone,” said Prithvi Reddy, Aam Aadmi Party’s Karnataka convener, adding, “we have been registering 1,000-1,500 members every day.”
A couple of days ago, the party had held a rally in Hubli-Dharwad that saw nearly 1,500 volunteers taking part. Reddy said this was overwhelming and only reflected the number of people wanting to change urban India.
In addition to the regular registration of members, the party’s campaign 'Mai Bhi Aam Aadmi’ is being held from January 10 to 26 to choose volunteers when the Rs 10 fee will be suspended.
"The number of members registered in the state is among the top five in India and in fact the ten phone lines at our office seem inadequate,” said Reddy, adding, “People are also being invited, not just to become members but also to work for the party.”
Meanwhile, the AAP is also set to hold a “missed call campaign”, where one can become a member by registering a missed call to a specific number.
Bangalore seems to be a major support base for the party.
“During the Anna movement, Bangalore city was the most vibrant after Delhi and resonated with the demand for the Jan Lok Pal bill led by Santosh Hegde in Karnataka,” said Captain Gopinath, founder of Air Deccan, who recently joined the AAP.
He added that the AAP’s DNA was inherited from Anna.
“While Anna gave hope and aspirations, Kejriwal gave the ideology and the movement a platform to convert into political action,” he said.
The party is still young, but Kejriwal and his colleagues had tirelessly and fearlessly built the party into a robust outfit and taken the country by storm by capturing the seat of power in Delhi, said Gopinath.
The party seems to have given a new dimension to politics and shown that elections can be fought and won without money, muscle and caste-backing and that is their biggest contribution to Indian politics.
“The challenge will be how to scale this up nationally and ensure that the elected representatives of AAP down the line do not succumb to arrogance, greed and abuse of power,” Gopinath added.
However, the support seen on social media and online may not necessarily translate into votes, believe many.
“As of now it’s not the Aam Aadmi Party in the city or in the state. It’s a ‘khaas aadmi party’ with the kind of people who are making a beeline for its membership. The man on the street is definitely not overwhelmed,” said R S Deshpande, National Fellow, Indian Council of Social Science Research, and former director of the Institute for Social and Economic Change ISEC.
Deshpande had played a major role in the Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement as a student in the mid-70s and he continues to study the political landscape very closely.
“That was a youth movement too and was an anti-corruption movement,” he added.
On the support for AAP, Deshpande said, “The voice of the ‘Aam Aadmi’ is being throttled. The educated and highly-educated are ‘shouting’ so loudly that their voice is becoming more prominent.”
He added there had been two anti-corruption movements -- the Jayaprakash Narayan movement in the 1970s that toppled Indira Gandhi and the VP Singh movement in the 1980s that toppled Rajiv Gandhi.
“The AAP movement is the third such, and can scale up,” he said.
The AAP must find a way to transmute the values of the party and of Anna and Kejriwal, to its cadres as the party is bound to grow exponentially across the country on the new-found optimism after the success of Delhi, said Gopinath.
If indeed they gain support in Karnataka, which political party is likely to be hurt more is now a query among many political watchers.
A case in point, according to a political analyst is, when Siddaramaiah inducted Roshan Baig and DK Shivakumar into the ministry, the AAP should have protested in line with their stand against corruption.
“But, they didn’t,” he added.
Political leaders from the established parties too are sceptical.
“The AAP lacks leadership and even those who are there are not strong enough or have mass support. Support on social media alone cannot translate into votes,” said a senior politician from a national party on condition of anonymity, adding the party would create no dent whatsoever.
With former Infosys CFO V Balakrishnan joining the party along with many other known names, there seems to be a groundswell of support for the party in Bangalore and some other parts of Karnataka.
The moot question is: “Can it translate into votes?”