AAP's low-cost, high-impact campaign in Karnataka (Election Special)
The AAP, which shot to national fame after an impressive showing in the Delhi assembly elections, is racing against time to woo voters with a "low-cost but high-impact campaign" for the Lok Sabha election in Karnataka where polling is due Thursday.
Getting candidates to contest in the state's 28 constituencies was not as much a problem for the party as it has been to sustain the campaign, with a volunteer-based outfit short of funds unlike rival parties.
"Our campaign is run by volunteers who took a break from their lucrative jobs for a cause dear to all of us. Our campaign on transparent funding is low cost but is making a high impact on people yearning for a change," AAP candidate from Bangalore Central V. Balakrishnan told IANS.
The former Infosys honcho, who declared assets worth Rs.189 crore in his nomination, is locked in a multi-corner contest against outgoing member P.C. Mohan of the Bharatiya Janata Party, young turk Rizwan Arshad of the Congress and danseuse Nandini Alva from Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S).
The high-profile constituency, with 1.9 million voters, has the maximum number of 36 candidates in the state.
In stark contrast to the high-octane campaign of the Congress and BJP, the Aam Aadmi Party attempts to connect with people through a band of dedicated volunteers going around the constituency, mostly on foot with Balakrishnan in the forefront.
"Awareness of AAP, its leader Arvind Kejriwal and my candidature is very high in the constituency. People are thirsting for a change and see AAP as an alternate to the traditional parties," Balakrishnan said while campaigning in the busy downtown Majestic area.
As the party's thrust is to change the political discourse in the country, Balakrishnan flaunts his credentials of being a clean and honest candidate with no criminal background.
"Like in other parts of the country, the people of Karnataka have also seen how Congress and BJP governments rule and are fed up with both. They are looking for an alternate system of governance, which is transparent, committed and delivers to meet the people's aspirations," he said.
With only a couple of vehicles adorned with campaign material including AAP flags and its 'jhadu' (broom) symbol crawling behind them, AAP volunteers draw people's attention by singing patriotic songs, raising slogans and urging them to vote for Balakrishnan for "a revolutionary change".
"The youth are fed up with political parties and their behaviour. They are looking for a change. They want progressive parties to clean up the political system. There is a disconnect between what youths want and what the political leadership can deliver. They understand that AAP is the only party which can bring about drastic change," said Balakrishnan.
Seemingly impressed by the disarming campaign style, many onlookers respond cheerfully to the volunteers, with some promising to vote for the AAP candidate who does not look like a typical politician. There is no loud beating of drums and music.
"Even though it is a parliamentary election, most of the issues citizens raise with me pertain to water supply, roads, footpath, garbage disposal and lack of amenities as corporators and MLAs have failed them," said Balakrishnan.
Though the financial wizard hails from Chennai, he speaks fluently in Kannada, Tamil, Hindi or English, depending on the area he is campaigning and with whom he interacts.
"We try to cover as many areas we can beginning the day at 6.30 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m. We have a volunteer network for door-to-door canvassing and we are also using the social media to reach out to large sections of people," Balakrishnan said.
Noting that the contest was mainly between the AAP, the BJP and the Congress in his constituency, he exuded confidence of winning in view of the overwhelming support he says he gets from people.
"It is an even fight as all the candidates are new to the electorate. Most people in the constituency had not seen the current MP (Mohan) or know his name. I strongly believe I am going to win," he said.
(Posted on 15-04-2014)