The political atmosphere in the country is abuzz with discussions on either Budget 2015 or the public rift in Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Barely two weeks after the Delhi elections, AAP leaders appear to be going for each other’s jugulars. Between the two AAP factions falls the group of volunteers who have remained a constant source of energy, motivation and political will for the fledgling party. For them, Arvind Kejriwal and Vyavastha Parivartan (systemic change) has been the sole driving force in their lives. The credit for AAP’s landslide victory in the Delhi elections cannot be limited to ‘Kejriwal Wave’ or the AAP agenda. A big chunk of volunteers joined the party since the mercurial increase in its political influence before the Delhi Assembly elections of 2013. Many of them became its foot soldiers with the inception of the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement in 2010; some go back even before that. Leaving behind the horde of big faces, Tehelka tracked down those AAP volunteers who have been instrumental in its journey of transformation from an anti-graft movement to a party spearheading a political revolution. Among these lesser-known AAP volunteers are a Delhi University law alumnus, a multiplex executive, two IAS aspirants and an IT professional. They left their studies, careers and ambitions behind for larger goals. We bring to the centrestage the unseen and unheard volunteers of India’s newest political force. Meet the unsung heroes of AAP.
On the first day of the 6th Delhi Assembly, you notice a young girl dressed in a simple brown kurta and a much faded overcoat. Animatedly, she goes to fellow colleagues with a support letter to be read in favour of AAP’s proposal for appointment of Delhi Assembly’s new Speaker and Deputy Speaker. Sarita Singh, 27, is among Aam Aadmi Party’s youngest MLAs and is probably going to play a key role in floor management for the next five years. She wiped out veterans from Congress and BJP to win the Assembly elections from the Rohtas Nagar seat. Referring to women MLAs in AAP, Sarita enthusiastically says, “The last time, it was three and now, it is six. Our party is very liberal and has always promoted women in politics.” Sarita, a postgraduate in Sociology from Delhi University, has been with Arvind Kejriwal since IAC days. She has done it all — from crowd management during movements to nukkad natak in Delhi, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh and is also the founding president of AAP’s student wing — Chatra Yuva Sangharsha Samiti (CYSS). When asked how she will prevent CYSS from becoming like the other two populist students’ parties, especially in Delhi University, she responds, “People had similar reservations when we joined mainstream politics. Irrespective of what numbers people join us in, we will not compromise our ideals.” Talking about the party’s astounding 67-seat win, Sarita says, “Arvindji has said in the house that we must not turn arrogant. Everything will be proven in five years. If we turn arrogant, janta will teach us a lesson.” On the difference between Sarita today and five years ago, she says, “Tab bhi zameen par baithti thee aur ab bhi zameen par hee baithti hoon, panch saal baad bhi aesi hi rahungi. (I still sit on the floor like I used to then and I will stay the same even five years from now.)”
Anand Raj Singh
Delhi elections 2015 witnessed an unexpected, untested and most unusual way of campaigning in Indian democracy – a flash mob. One of the flash mob videos shared by AAP’s social media team has over 4.5 lakh views and 5,000 shares. AAP named it Dance4Democracy, which was a brainchild of Anand Raj Singh, 27, a commerce graduate from Lucknow. “When I joined IAC, as a volunteer I used to work at Fun Cinemas. As time passed, I started dedicating more time to IAC. AAP’s formation made me schedule my work and (redirect) my activism,” says Anand. He explains how the idea of Dance4Democracy took shape. “I was a student at a dance academy and knew the potential of flash mobs. Dilip (Pandey) Bhaiya told us to go ahead with the plan and also ensure that it doesn’t turn into an embarrassment for AAP.” He adds, “Sixty volunteers, four practice sessions and 200 performances across Delhi changed the mood. It also became a platform for many professional dancers who wanted to campaign for us but in the conventional style.” On Arvind Kejriwal’s reaction to the unique campaign, Anand answers, “He met us after elections. He congratulated us for our success and dedication (and) said that he watched all our performances on YouTube.” Anand says his family has always supported him. But now, they want him to have a stable future. “They have given up on me. Wo ab maan chuke hain ki jaisa Arvind hai waisa hi mera beta nikal gaya. (My son has turned out to be like Arvind.) But now that I have given five years to Arvind, I can focus on my career too,” he says with a smile.