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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Aam Aadmi Party’s poll formula: Catch them young

They are young and have fresh ideas about changing the world. Their campaign style is off the beaten track. Their social media skills may be powerful, but there's still a question mark on their 'winning ability'.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has announced the names of most of its candidates and has fielded many 'attractive' aspirants to take on the political veterans of the Congress and BJP in the 70 constituencies of Delhi.

Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal during an election campaign near Jama Masjid in old Delhi . (HT Photo/Arvind Yadav)

Their backgrounds are varied: From defence to art and journalism, from engineering to those with a background in sports and social service, all have found a place under the AAP's umbrella. Barring a few turncoats, most are rookies.

The party says it's confident. Its leader Sanjay Singh said, "It's a team people can trust. They may not be acquainted much with political tricks but are passionate about changing the system."

The party claims its candidates are clean with no serious criminal or corruption charges against them. "Let other parties declare their candidates. You will find most of them have cases registered against them," Singh said.

But the party has had to get rid of some of its candidates because of serious allegations. "We started announcing the names in June and our campaign has been the longest. There had to be some changes in between. Other parties will announce names on poll-eve to avoid such changes," said another party leader.

"The average age of AAP candidates is 40. Our crop of leaders is quite young compared to the Congress and BJP whose candidates' average age is between 50 and 55. It's a generational shift. They will certainly appeal to the young electorate," he added.

While Gulab Singh Yadav, 35, a member of the team that had won the 1992 Nehru Cup Hockey tournament, is contesting from Matiala, Satyendra Kumar Jain, 49, who worked with the central public works department, is fighting from Shakur Basti. Jain says he got fed up with corruption in the department and quit his job.

A sculptor, Devi Dayal Murtiwale, 48, is AAP's candidate from Gokalpur. "I have been making statues of gods and goddesses since 1986. During the Anna movement, I found my true calling," he said.

"More than 50% of the candidates have been associated with us since the days of India Against Corruption. They sacrificed flourishing careers and have been fighting for people's issues," said party leader Manish Sisodia.

While sexagenarian Kuldeep Singh Chanana, the party's candidate from Moti Nagar, has ensured a number of facilities at the Punjabi Bagh crematorium in the past many years, Surender Singh, 35, a former National Security Guard commando who fought 26/11 terrorists before he quit the Army, is the AAP candidate from Delhi Cantonment.

About 60 per cent of the AAP candidates are graduates and post-graduates. Somnath Bharti, 39, its candidate from Malviya Nagar, is one of them. He has done MSc, LLB and is an office-bearer of the IIT-Delhi alumni association.

Nearly 52 per cent of the candidates run their own business while 21 per cent are professionals. But as many as 20 per cent, like 29-year-old Akhilesh Tripathi - AAP's candidate from Model Town - are dependent on family and friends for financial support. Seven per cent have agriculture as their source of livelihood.

"We're aware that we don't have the money power. Volunteers and their relentless work to bring about a change is our only hope," said Sanjay Singh.

Innovative campaigning, aided by the likes of former banker Meera Sanyal and media honcho Sameer Nair, do get media attention but it's not necessary that they will translate into votes, especially when the party hasn't been sticking to the formula of caste politics.

For instance, Kapil Dhama, a Jat, is contesting from Muslim-dominated Mustafabad seat.

Senior party leader Gopal Rai said, "Our party was born from a movement which was against identity politics and corruption. The people are so fed up that even if we think of fielding aspirants on the basis of caste and community calculations, nobody will vote for them."

"I'm contesting from Babarpur, which has a sizeable (38 per cent) Muslim population. The people who have so far been voted on communal grounds have only been cheated election after election," he said.

Source: HT

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