(Ashutosh joined the Aam Aadmi Party in January. The former journalist took on former Union minister Kapil Sibal and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan in the national election from Chandni Chowk in Delhi.)
Necessity is the mother of invention; many a times, adversity turns weakness into strength. When the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) decided to contest elections nearly two years ago, its biggest worry was funds.
Traditional politics is defined by vulgar spending and buying of votes. Campaigning requires reaching out to each voter by all means and in all media, be it TV, newspapers, bill boards, banners, posters, pamphlets, cut outs, big rallies, corner meetings, loudspeakers, road shows. Everything costs a lot, including maintenance of offices in each ward and taking care of the daily needs of party workers.
Traditional parties run their election campaigns through paid workers who are paid anything between Rs. 500 - Rs. 5000 per day. Money is also required to distribute liquor. Packets containing notes are also distributed among selected voters. Every constituency has a few "vote dealers" who claim to command bulk votes, from a few hundred to a few thousand. All political parties offer them hard cash for this.
But AAP has to work with meagre funds, and we have vowed not to do anything which is not constitutionally mandated and weakens our democracy. An army of committed volunteers and crowd sourcing gave us ideas of campaigning which are puncturing the myth that only the moneyed class can contest elections.
Here are 5 AAP strategies for the coming Delhi election:
1) AAP has invented the concept of 'Gully Prabhari', that is a person in charge of a street. This person is responsible for campaigning in his or her street. They are to place a hoarding on the wall that has Arvind Kejriwal's name, the name of the party i.e., AAP, the party symbol of the Jhaadu (broom), and the name of the candidate of the constituency. Every volunteer has been given the responsibility supervise 25 houses per neighbourhood in an attempt to win their support.
2) Placing posters on Delhi autos. AAP was visible in every corner without paying a single penny. It was a runaway success. The auto drivers felt empowered for the first time. These autos became the back-bone of the AAP's campaign. The success of this strategy alarmed the Delhi government and its political masters, and an attempt was made by the government to ban posters on autos. The matter was taken to court, and the order was stayed by the Delhi High Court. This time around, auto drivers, who are AAP sympathizers, will give questionnaires to passengers so that the party gets feedback on important policies and issues.
3) Distribution of pamphlets and hanging of posters are banned in the Delhi Metro. The party came out with the brilliant idea of distributing visiting cards. Volunteers are to ride the metro and distribute simple visiting cards of AAP, carrying simple messages. The latest in the list of innovations is the 'Metro Wave'. This involves AAP volunteers with their caps, hanging out at the entrance and exits of every metro station in groups, singing and playing music and intermittently asking people to vote for AAP.
4) Another strategy that AAP is very excited about is a flash mob kind of small team of Nukkad Natak which will visit various places. They will appear from nowhere. All of a sudden, they will assemble in a crowded corner, enact a small play, sending out a social and political message and in the end, they will ask people to vote for AAP. This team is called 'Play for Change'. This team is extremely popular amongst the university crowd and youngsters and the performance is mainly for them.
5) Check out our 'Human Banners'. As everyone knows, putting up banners is a very costly affair. It was decided to ask our own volunteers to form a team of two to three and physically hold these big banners from the bannisters of flyovers. The moving traffic down below gets the feel of banners being hung up whereas the fact is that they are held up by volunteers. This is again very effective on traffic crossings too.
The Party is still in the process of formalizing a few more such low-cost innovations and tricks to make elections more creative and fun. Money can buy workers but it can't make them committed volunteers. AAP's success lies in the vibrant but young minds that are willing to tread an extra mile in the pursuit to change a corrupt system.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.