The Aam Aadmi Party was sworn-in in Delhi on Saturday, a day after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Congress chief ministers met to discuss the strategy for the 2014 general elections. Gandhi and his company could do well to go through the Aam Aadmi Party’s winning script on how to make a mark in elections.
1. Transparent funding: While Congress and even the Bhartiya Janata Party get nearly 75% funds from unknown sources, AAP maintained a record of every single rupee the party received in donation and put it on the party website. They refused money from corporates and maintained a record of every expenditure incurred. The transparency boosted AAP’s image and credibility. More importantly, the party clearly set a target and announced how much it needed to contest the elections i.e. Rs 20 crore. Once they had received that much money, AAP took the unprecedented step of refusing to accept more funds.
2. Door-to-door campaign: AAP members and volunteers toiled to do the ground work and focused on door-to-door campaigning and met the voters at least twice before the voting day. They also took roadshows across all constituencies in Delhi to reach out to the people. As a result AAP was able to ride on the disillusioned votebank, who had been taken for granted by the Congress and BJP.
3. Candidate selection: Unlike in the Congress and BJP, lobbying did not matter. AAP followed a transparent process. A list of probables was drawn up based on inputs from locals. Inputs from locals and party members was taken to choose a ‘clean’ candidate. AAP ensured that not only did it keep people with criminal backgrounds away, but also withdrew one of its candidates at the cost of losing one seat, when the party learnt about a pending case against one of its candidates. The party did not field candidates on the basis of their caste, religion, profession, money or muscle power.
4. Common problems and local issues: Water and power are issues that resonate with people irrespective of their wealth and status. Congress maintained that electricity bills in Delhi are not high, but AAP took a completely different view; the party recognised the bijli-paani problem and mobilised people around it. AAP also recognised that problems vary from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. So the party introduced local manifestos, a ploy later imitated by BJP. AAP prepared local manifestos in consultation with locals after several meetings in particular constituencies rather than preparing them while sitting in the party office.
5. Fight corruption, not a community: AAP’s poll plank was anti-corruption but not against any community or a religion. They only fought on the agenda of bringing in good governance, development, clean and honest politics and zero tolerance for corruption.
6. Innovative campaigning: AAP used innovative methods of campaigning like advertisements on auto-rickshaws and human banners that caught people’s attention even as political rivals laughed at the gimmicks.
7. First-time voters: AAP focused on involving the youth and the first-time voter. A lot many young people actually bothered to get their voter IDs made so they could vote on December 4. This contradicted the BJP and Congress view that the youth only comes out on twitter.
8. Social media: To keep the youth as well as a lager community engaged, the party extensively used social media. Be it facebook, twitter or youtube, the party and leaders announced every decision and regularly updated people on canvassing.
9. RTI-friendly: AAP welcomed the move to bring political parties under the ambit of the Right to Information Act even as Congress and BJP tried to muzzle the move. Their push for transparency was a welcome change in India’s political arena.
10. Approachable: AAP leaders, including Arvind Kejriwal, were approachable, friendly and open to new views. Contestants signed affidavits saying they would not use red beacons and not stay in official residences. These commitments made them even more approachable and people-friendly.