I have been associated with AAP and its volunteers since the last 1 year. I was one of the latecomers who joined the movement after initial surge in last Delhi Assembly Elections. I was never interested in politics before AAP came into real existence. I joined the AAP Official Group on December 18th 2013, made my first donation to AAP on January 1st 2014. As I interacted with more AAP people, I came to know that this party is a lot different from the likes of Congress and BJP. I read a lot about AAP ideology, I read the SWARAJ book, history of IAC, RTI, Arvind Kejriwal etc. I have never done ground campaigning for AAP. I was always sitting in a comfortable desk, tweeting-face booking-writing codes for AAP, managing KejruWall page that started from a small post in AAP Official Group. The artist really helped a lot in initial ramp up of this page and KejruWall cartoons gained fame among AAPians.
49 Days of AAP were very much promising but there were too many controversies, mostly created by the media and the opposition. Bijli-Paani promises were fulfilled. Education-CAG audits were on track. Some other things were also under implementation. Dharna before 26th Jan was correct but it had a violent sense that I didn’t like. But I felt only Arvind Kejriwal with AAP could bring the change in our political system. So, I kept myself engaged with monitoring AAP activities and kept supporting Arvind Kejriwal and his team. When Arvind Kejriwal quit on 14th Feb, it was disheartening but that time there was no way Jan Lokpal could have been passed in the Delhi Assembly, so it was a morally correct decision but a political blunder.
Lok Sabha Elections:
After AAP government fell and there was no hope of state elections in Delhi, party started preparing for Lok Sabha polls. It went ahead and decided to contest on 434 seats all over India. There were several rounds of discussion in the AAP group by supporters whether the decision was right or wrong. Arvind Kejriwal wanted to contest only selected seats but other members outnumbered his view. Party came up with a promising manifesto for Lok Sabha elections. We focused too much on Varanasi and Amethi. Rest of the seats excluding few was almost ignored. We used to get images of AAP volunteers getting beaten up in Varanasi, eggs being thrown, Arvind being slapped and inked. BJP supporters kept spreading photo shopped images on Facebook-Twitter-WhatsApp. There was hope that party would win 20-30 seats. 90% of the time of AAP supporters-volunteers went in defending AAP against morphed images and criticizing Narendra Modi-Ambani-Adani. We really could never explain our own manifesto to people. Best we could manage to convey was our ideology of Swaraj, Janlokpal and fight against Crony Capitalism. I guess significant time was also spent in exposing EVMs and voting anomalies in polling booths. Indian EVMs are secure, unless the micro controllers manufactured by Renesas(Japan) and Microchip(USA) used in them are already factory tempered. BTW, Renesas is the same company that was saved from financial crisis by ModiJi’s good friend, the Japanese PM Shinzo Abe. No conspiracy theory here please.
I spent countless hours writing articles-answers-posts on Quora, on facebook page and other places for AAP. Yes, on Quora you will find lot of AAP supporters speaking logically. From the word ‘Logical’, how can we forget TLI aka ‘The Logical Indians’? When I first saw the guy exposing BJP-Congress over funding, corruption etc. via effective videography, I was overwhelmed. He was really good. I would call him a good supportive friend. Lot of AAP volunteers knew him. It will be wrong to call the TLI guys hardcore AAP followers. They basically supported the anti-corruption ideology. ‘The Logical Indians’ went lot of transitions and now the page has more than 2 million followers and is one of the most popular Facebook pages in India. It usually concentrates on enlightening people, praising government’s good policies and criticizing bad ones. Simple enough.
The day when Lok Sabha Results were declared I woke up at 6 AM and switched to ABP News-Aaj Tak (only news channels in my opinion which are less biased). Initial trends started very soon. AAP opened the account quite late with Bhagwant Mann leading from Sangrur. I was hoping AAP will win 15-20 seats. But Indian Voters had something else in mind. Result is well known. AAP won mere 4 seats. 7-0 loss in Delhi was painful so was Kumar Vishwas losing his deposit. We predicted tough fight in Varanasi but that was also one sided. Shazia Ilmi was also a disaster. She was offered to fight against Sonia Gandhi but she refused citing some silly reasons. Had she agreed, she would have got more votes and respect. Whole day I switched from one news channel to other in hope that one of them would show better results for AAP. End of the day, it was majority for BJP – Narendra Modi Ji became the PM.
Post Lok Sabha Elections:
After June-July 2014, we saw lot of internal changes in AAP. Some local leaders quit. There was a fund crisis. Soon, Shazia Ilmi left, some leaders tried to convince her but all in vain. A lot of groundwork was required. Media had almost wiped us out of its books.
As AAP leader Ashutosh said:
“There was a time when Arvind Kejriwal used to visit people in Delhi, introduce himself and they used to close the doors for him. Even apartment guards used to taunt him with his Varanasi loss. We have seen worst possible days. Any normal person or party could have been broken by such period. But, Arvind stood up, faced all hardships, lifted the party with support of selfless leaders and volunteers”.
Later AAP launched ‘Mission Vistar’, a drive to increase party membership, reach, and ground support and funding. Some bright and dedicated Social Media volunteers devised new strategies to counter opposition. Some of them will always remain confidential. 4-5 months were spent in promoting AAP on social media and helping the phoenix to rise again. I continued publishing posters, videos, comments, news articles etc on the KejruWall page and tweeting as well. Hundreds of ground volunteers also started working day and night. What we did as a team on Social Media and on Delhi Grounds is one of the best example even corporate world can quote of team building, cooperation, selflessness and strategy. It was truly ‘Halla Bol’ on Twitter, Facebook and Delhi streets. Great work by some friends who managed it. Also, Kudos to the group of volunteers named ‘Dance for Democracy’, some of them left their jobs and education to conduct countless flash mobs all across Delhi in past 2 months. Towards the end of year 2014, AAP had regained the lost strength. MufflerMan was trending. Vishal Dadlani came up with #5SaalKejriwal song that became a nationally trending number. Twitter-Facebook war between proAAP and antiAAP people had gained momentum. The Artist came up with lot of KejruWall cartoons. Some people crafted the idea of selling t-shirts-hoodies of MufflerMan, a new way to fund AAP. We even got one design printed and shipped it to Arvind Kejriwal. It was quite an effort sending him the hoodie and getting back a photo of him flaunting it. I made lot of new friends on social media including a 15-year-old kid who used to skip his studies to promote AAP. He even donated to AAP from his pocket money. Such small contributions are the one that holds the maximum importance.
Delhi Elections 2015:
When Delhi State Election was announced in January, we were almost equal to that of BJP. AAP already had started ‘Delhi Dialogue’ series a month back engaging with Delhiites and finding out their problems, hopes, requirements and solutions. Later #MeterMan story about BJP state leader also gave us significant edge. Ground volunteers were covering every Delhi household and the calling campaign was also started. Introduction of Kiran Bedi in BJP was a bit shocking but the day she gave her first interview, we knew it might actually help us. Against Arvind Kejriwal’s straightforward knightly interviews, she was just a pawn. We used her the same way BJP used Rahul Gandhi 8-9 months back. Shazia Ilmi, Binny etc. were never a threat. Narendra Modi Ji also helped a bit with his Naxalite quotes and accusing speeches, which many Delhi people felt were inappropriate. Kiran Bedi’s discussions with Ravish from NDTV and Arnab from TimesNow were added bonus. BJP actually forgot to promote its agenda in this election. Against AAPs solid 70-point manifesto, their 270 points vision document was very generic and vague. BJPs newspaper ads also were kind of backfiring.
With every opinion poll, AAP was catching up on BJP. The final one on 1st week of Feb gave AAP the required boost. Almost half of them were showing AAP getting majority. But 3 days before voting, controversy struck … AVAM showed up in the media. AVAM also has one of its kind story in the history of AAP. Karan Singh (AVAM founder) was given the task of organizing AAP volunteers a few months back but in turn he tried to be a politician on his own. He convinced few volunteers citing lack of SWARAJ and volunteer participation in AAP and created AVAM (AAP Volunteer Action Manch). Few got influenced by him and revolted against AAP. Karan Singh was kicked out from AAP for anti party activities. Most of the AVAM people were close to Shazia Ilmi and some ex-AAP leaders who joined BJP, so the group remained in existence with external support. Because of AVAM some dedicated AAP volunteers left (hope they will come back now). AVAM member Neil Terrance Haslam is also an interesting character. He appeared on TV, debating ‘Hawala Scam via Bank Cheque’. Neil was admin of AAP Official Facebook group. But he was a kind of dictator and a bit abusive. So he was removed from adminship. He took it as an insult and turned anti AAP. I spoke to him for a couple of times on Facebook to fix the problem but all in vain. Facebook Admin status was quite prestigious for him. He joined AVAM for the sake of revenge. So, AVAM’s BJP supported exposes were shown all over the media for couple of days. Army of AAP volunteers-leaders went on explaining everywhere that AAP funding was clear and best possible cross checking of funds was being done. I myself never doubted about AAP funding. If a company had legitimate PAN number, tax status, registries in government and banks did scrutiny, nothing more could have been done from AAP’s side. Overall AVAM story had little to no damage. Opposition had already played the card of fake sting in last assembly elections and one should not play same moves again in politics. Bhukhari’s statement on the day before elections came as a surprise but AAP leadership was quick to tackle that and rejected his support. But the BJP supporters kept spreading photo shopped images to malign AAP on this topic. Religion has always been BJPs trump card.
Voting Day and Exit Poll:
On 7th Feb, the day of voting I was monitoring pro-AAP and pro-BJP twitter feeds quite closely. Both of them claimed to have more support over booth. I spoke to some Delhi Friends, they assured me of AAP win. I spent couple of hours monitoring the polling booth webcasts provided by Election Commission. It was a bit boring but I had the images of AAP volunteers standing on roadsides, bus stands, highways with AAP posters for hours and those kind of things really mattered a lot during election. EC webcast was terrible, only handful of polling booths out of 12000 all over Delhi were having live video feeds. Some of them had camera facing wrong direction. Ideally it should have been facing the voting machine. Voting was over and vote percentage broke the previous record. In the evening I was waiting for Chanakya’s exit poll. Exit polls on all channels were almost giving majority to AAP, which was delightful.
First time after those 49 days of AAP, I felt relieved and confident about AAP. Chanakya’s poll was announced on News24 after 8PM and bang, it gave AAP 48 seats. That thing nailed it. AAP was trending everywhere. After voting was over, EVMs were taken to strong rooms and locked away by EC. Someone on twitter reported that BJP is planning something for EVM tempering at night. The retweets reached Ashutosh and Arvind Kejriwal and AAP deployed volunteers to guard the EVMs till 10th Feb. Pictures of AAP volunteers sitting in front of EVM rooms in nail biting cold and checking police PCR vans going in-out emerged. Selfless Volunteers, I must say.
10th Feb is one of the happiest days of my life and of every AAP supporter. Just like 16th May, I woke up at 6 AM, switched to ABP News-Aaj Tak. Initial trends started quite late this time. First one went to BJP, Vijendra Gupta was in lead. After few seconds it was AAP-1, BJP-1. Later AAP surged ahead and the rest is history. AAP 67, BJP 3, Congress 0, Others 0. The count that no one had ever imagined turned true. None of the exit polls (even AAPs own by Yogendra Yadav) came close to the #AAPStorm. 5 Saal Kejriwal was everywhere. I could see AAPians celebrating on my computer screen. I could feel the sense of celebration in me as well. Whole day went in tweeting and Facebooking. The Artist had already pinned a cartoon having KejruWall riding on a wave on the page timeline. Arvind Kejriwal came up on the screen shouting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and yes … tears rolled down my eyes. I might have done only 1% of what other volunteers did but still I contributed in changing the course of Indian Politics. I contributed in changing this nation. That was a proud feeling.
I thing biggest strength of AAP is its countless volunteers; none of them were ever paid a penny. I have not personally met my social media AAP friends and ground volunteers but just want to say few words to them…
“Thank You, Together We Did It”.