It’s more like a closed-door meeting of a residents’ club in one of Gurgaon’s several posh colonies. A select gathering of about 40-50 people are meeting over an informal lunch. Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is addressing this curious group that includes senior corporate professionals and executives from the Millennium City. After the meeting, Kejriwal makes a quiet exit, gets into the car waiting outside and goes back to Delhi. What follows is interesting.
Participants commit to contribute anywhere between Rs 25,000 and Rs 1,00,000 to AAP. Part of the contribution is made through cheques, while others make payments through credit cards or online money transfers.
Interestingly, not all of these people can vote in the election, since they are not even constituents of Delhi. “It is important for us to support initiatives like these in whatever way we can, even if we cannot vote directly,” says Bhupender Singh, CEO (Asia, Africa, Middle East and Australia) of UK-based outsourcing giant Serco Global Services. “A good performance by the AAP in Delhi will catalyse similar change movements in other parts of the country.”
Bhupender’s wife, Nisha Singh, a London Business School alumnus, who once headed Google’s Corporate Social Responsibility function in Gurgaon before quitting her job to become a local councillor, makes plans on how to garner support for the AAP in Gurgaon. “We started with talking to like-minded friends who then called in prospective contributors from their circle,” she says. “A few of those who were earlier just contributors turned into hosts and called in more people. The chain continues to grow.”
AAP’s national secretary Pankaj Gupta, a Gurgaon resident, says that such fundraisers are being held to support the party’s expenditure for the upcoming Delhi Assembly polls. “We had a target of 20 crore for the election. So far, we have contributions worth Rs 16 crore,” says Gupta, who has left a cushy corporate job to pursue politics. “We will have more such fundraisers,” he adds.
Manas Fuloria, co-founder and MD(Europe), Naggaro Software, is one of the recent contributors. “When a friend invited me to one of the fundraisers, I was more than happy to go,” says Fuloria. “In Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP, we see an alternative to the current political brass. At least, his fundamental honesty is unchallenged.”
But, Fuloria also wants the party to clearly etch out its goals. “Many of us want Kejriwal to come out with a clearer road map on policy issues, especially economic development,” he says.
Former CEO of Star TV and NDTV Imagine Sameer Nair joined the party last week and pledged his support in the upcoming election. Asked about his decision he said, “I had been following the Jan lokpal and AAP’s anti corruption movement. I am a very political and active supporter of the party. For over 5-6 months, I was in touch with AAP leaders. I am going to help them in their media and communication campaign besides raising funds.” He also added, “There is a strong pro-AAP sentiment among the masses because of the benchmark of probity the party has set.”
Entrepreneur Anita Kashyap recalls the first fundraiser she attended. All present asked Kejriwal several questions about the core values of the AAP. Once convinced, Kashyap not only made her contribution but also helped the party get a couple of lakhs from her friends.
“Our hopes from the party are high,” she says. “We would not mind if it loses the election. But if it diverts from its promised path of honesty, we will be very upset.”
Her husband Ashish Kashyap, Group CEO of the online ticketing and shopping firm Ibibo says, “While I am not able to take time out from my work, I am proud of what my wife is doing for AAP.”