ByÂ Digant Kapoor:
No one working for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is paid for his or her time. From the top to bottom, everyone is volunteering for the party. In a country packed with armchair critics, cynical uncles and sceptical aunties, it is energizing and inspiring to witness such consistent nationalistic participation on a daily basis. AAP Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are professionals who have taken time off to help the party, some are students, and others are business owners. Ex-ambassadors are working with the foreign policy unit. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, it takes an army of dedicated people to establish a political party that can challenge the BJP, Congress, and regional parties. What is impressive is that AAP has managed to achieve this task on a shoestring budget. Working for such a dynamic party is rewarding and challenging.
There is no formal selection process to volunteer for AAP. I arrived at AAP’s Delhi office in late December 2013 to register as an active volunteer. If someone is serious about volunteering with AAP, then the best thing to do is to show up to the office and consistently be present. While many are excited at the prospect of working for a political party, it is important to understand that working in this sector is highly erratic. No two days are the same. The person you report to can change at irregular intervals. It is up to the volunteer to be dedicated and continually figure out how they can add value to the party.
The overwhelming majority of AAP work is not reported on TV. While the media remains occupied scrutinizing the government’s every move, the party’s internal dynamics and workings are rarely discussed. The Aam Admi Party is itself worthy of discussion because of its uniqueness in India’s political space. It is my impression that almost all political parties (national and regional) are run like corrupt, nepotistic family businesses (to a large extent). Those organizations are insular, resistant to change, and exist not for the public benefit but to benefit the pockets of the party elite. In comparison, AAP is open, transparent, ethical, and progressive.Â The funds raised by AAP possibly represent the largest collection of white-money in Indian political history.
AAP’s “office building” is no doubt too small to cater to the volume of people who wish to interact with the party. It is important to note here that Indians are notorious for being impatient people. Queuing remains a mystery to most (despite years of British rule) and people are quick to shout at the top of their lungs. Once in a while this results in some high tempers at the front doors as no one wants to wait. People are reminded that they are at the Aam Aadmi Party’s office (not at other parties) where VIP culture virtually does not exist. Moreover, AAP has largely addressed this issue over the last few weeks and people from all walks of life wait their turn (for the most part).
The sheer size of the media industry in India is incredible. Plentiful print, TV, and online media personnel walk through our front gate. It is interesting to observe and interact with media personnels. Speaking with journalists who are patient, courteous, intelligent, and professional is always a pleasure. Unfortunately, you always come across a few journalists who are impatient, un-agreeable, and even offensive. The biggest insult being: tumahare aur doosre parties mein koi pharak nahi hai (there is no difference between you and the other parties). While I am on the topic of media, please remember that TV media can increasingly be classified as ‘entertainment’ rather than news. Please do not make up your mind on any issue after casually viewing it on TV. I personally avoid watching TV news as much as possible because print media usually offers markedly better quality coverage.
There is a noticeable pattern in people’s reaction upon learning that absolutely every single person working for AAP is doing so for free. Shock. Disbelief. Shock. Disbelief, which slowly gives way to hope and optimism as people take pride in AAP and its work. The politically and culturally impossible is being accomplished in India. Everyday, people like you and me are working together and fundamentally reshaping the Indian political landscape, and Indian political culture. Once people realize the sea change that has been accomplished, they move beyond the cynicism, the scepticism, and embrace hope and optimism. Volunteering for AAP contributes towards this historic transformation of our country.