Contesting its maiden elections, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is striving hard to make its presence felt in the coming Assembly polls in Delhi. Turn your head and you are sure to find a poster — “Is baar chalegi jhadu” (meaning broom — the party’s symbol — will sweep) — either on electricity poles or on the back of almost every third auto rickshaw in the national capital. One wonders who is sponsoring all this, where do funds come from?
The answer, claims the party, is the same as the name of the party goes — the common man. With a budget of Rs 20 crore for elections, the AAP has so far collected Rs 11.05 crore (according to its updated database on September 24) and the cash pool is increasing day by day. The AAP gets Rs 7 lakh a day as donation on an average, which might be nothing when compared to donations to bigger parties.
Companies are also chipping in but their contributions account for just 10 per cent of the total funds. “Though we do not like to categorise the donors, for us, these are the people committed to bringing in a change in the system,” said Pankaj Gupta, National Secretary, AAP.
The party takes funds from companies on the condition that they would not seek favouritism, Gupta claimed.
In the month of September alone (till the 24th), the party received Rs 2.57 crore and it hopes to get a total of Rs 20 crore before the Assembly elections later this year. The party maintained that the background of those donating over Rs 10 lakh is checked. “We have formed a political affairs committee of nine members that scrutinises people willing to fund more than Rs 10 lakh,” said Gupta.
The party has adopted innovative ways to collect donations, making full use of the social networking tools. It maintains a website where people can donate through net banking and check the details of their donation. They can go through an entire list of donors on the site.
There is even a separate website run by the party, where it has put requests for printers, laptops, second hand cellphones, projectors and even accommodation — basically requirements for daily use.
AAP teams invite their friends, potential voters and people within their network. “Then (AAP leader Arvind) Kejriwal delivers a speech in that particular area and appeals to the people to raise funds, while also answering queries of individuals,” said Kumar Gaurav, a young volunteer who looks after accounts of the party. Gupta explained that there is a door-to-door policy as well.
Party workers take voters' lists and perform four major tasks — appeal to the person to vote, ask him if he would vote for their leader or not, seek donations and urge him to take them to neighbors where they repeat the drill.
“If a person does all of this, we feel he or she is our potential voter and we have got a 40 per cent success rate till now,” said Gupta.
Apart from that, there are various fund raising teams, which the party said is the initiative of the citizens itself in Bangalore, Mumbai, Faridabad, Noida, New Delhi and Gurgaon. Not only does the party raise funds from within the country, but abroad as well.
And for that, there is a separate AAP Global Team’, which collects funds by means of Skype, Google Hangout and personal meetings.
Donations from abroad largely come from the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong. Donations from within India constitute 75 per cent of the total sum. However, the party has made it a rule to take donations only from Indian citizens only.
The party would be fielding candidates in all the 70 constituencies of the capital and has allocated a sum of Rs 14 lakh for each of them.
Hence, Rs 10 crore, which is half the total budget, would be spent on the the party's army. If capable, these candidates, the party said, would bring in their own funds as well. According to the Election Commission site, the highest an MLA candidate can spend is Rs 10 lakh, depending on states.
However, his supporters can spend as much as they like in campaigns, provided they get permission from the candidate.
The spending on 7,000-10,000 odd volunteers is minimal, the party said, as only the needy ones are given money for food and at the most, metro cards for travelling.
AAP has planned to spend Rs 4-5 crore on advertisements, of which Rs 14 lakh has already been spent on radio advertisements. “As the budget is not much compared to other parties, we think this is the most reliable and efficient medium. However, we are advertising on Live TVs in outlets like Barista and also through cheaper media like IVR calls, SMSes,” said Gupta.
AAP is gung-ho over the support it is drawing. “The support that the party is getting is enormous and is shown in numbers,” claimed Gaurav. A couple of months from now and we would actually know whether these are just tall claims or real votes.