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Rupashree Nanda
Friday , November 01, 2013 at 16 : 15

Get the vote out - Obama's experience comes in handy for Kejriwal


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"Yes - we are doing all that, our team has studied the Obama campaign very closely," replied Arvind Kejriwal to a question from the audience in Singapore via a Google hangout in his office in Gaziabad. The questioner wanted to know if Kejriwal had studied the election strategy of Barack Obama who'd used the internet to create a large base of volunteers and whether he was tapping into elite institutions to get students' to support, to get the message out, basically, get the vote out. Kejriwal urges the audience to donate " large sums" and requests each person to make at least thirty calls to potential voters and convince them to vote for the AAP. Kejriwal should be hopeful as one voice from the other side says that AAP is a party which is for the common man and which needs the common man as much as the common man needs the party.

So how exactly is the Aam Aadmi Party planning to convert its support into votes?

The AAP office in Karawal Nagar, on the outskirts of Delhi is bare. It has no props except a lap top, a projector, two sound boxes and some rugs. This room is used for strategy meeting by 32 year old Kapil Mishra, who is the AAP's candidate for the Karawal Nagar constituency. Mishra's campaign co-ordinator is Mr Varun Gupta who has taken a break from his work in Seattle. Kapil and Varun quickly establish contact with Harjit and few others in Seattle. Today, the discussion focuses on booth management:

Kapil: "I wanted to check if we have called back all those who gave us missed calls today?"

Harjit: "Ankush and Chetan have made some calls and we are putting all details on excel sheets. Some volunteers have indicated that they want to work with us. We can follow up on them."

Kapil: "Please keep in mind the three things we discussed in the morning - do take down their addresses so that we know who all will work at the booth level, they have to give us twenty names for each booth and, on 4th December, they should commit their day to us".

Harjit: "We are putting all this information on excel sheets - you must follow up at your end. Every volunteer has committed to speak with twenty families".

Kapil: "The moment we get the response sheet, we will follow up. Once we know their addresses, we will locate the booth and send a volunteer from here".

Varun: "Please do make a status column and a summary sheet so that we are up to date".

Harjit: " Our calls will continue from here".

Kapil says that his campaign would not have been the same without people like Harjit. It motivates their cadre in Karawal Nagar, they have access to a highly specialised skill set and the two teams keep an eagle's eye on every booth which is colour coded in reds, greens and yellows. Varun adds, "we have a format of zonal leads and that is mapped in Seattle as well". Kapil underscores the importance of technology," what is happening in each booth in Karawal Nagar? Who wants to vote for us ? We are tracking all that online through laptops and mobiles. It is helping us to reach out to more people." The confidence of the team also comes from the ground work at Karawal Nagar. 2500 volunteers have reached out to 15,780 homes already. In terms of pure numbers, the AAP, claims Kapil, has a strong presence in Karawal Nagar, traditionally a BJP bastion. Ram Sevak Upadhaya, formally the Samajwadi party's district president, Harish Sharma, formally the BJP's youth wing president, Raj Bahadur Pal formally an independent are just some of the people who have joined the AAP.

The CNN IBN The Week pre poll survey done by the Center for Science and Developing Society with almost six weeks to go for elections showed that the AAP has 28% of the vote share in Delhi, that is 1% less than the BJP and 1% more than the Congress. Taking a leaf out of the Obama campaign, the aim is to get 100 percent of AAP supporters to the polling booth. Like Barack Obama's 2008 campaign, facebook, twitter, online campaigns to raise funds are an inalienable part of AAP's strategy. The campaign on the internet is matched equally by the party's work on the ground. The AAP has gone all out to reach the voter with Kejriwal attending drawing rooms meetings, one on ones, nukkad sabhas, jansabhas, rallies, manifesto meetings. It has tapped into the 'power of one ', in Vishwas Nagar, AAP volunteer Anil Kumar with a mike and Inderpal from Bangalore with a soundbox walk the gallis for a few hours to spread the message before Kejriwal's scheduled meeting, " Arvind Kejriwal, Arvind Kejriwal, aaj shaam teen baje, 18 katara chowk, aap ke beech mein"....it reminds you of the olden days' advertisement for local events, like jatras, circus or traveling bioscope. The voter registration drive is also one of crucial strategies of the AAP, with the party focusing on getting forms of unregistered voters to the election commission to enlist them.

At the party office in Connaught Place, a small group of NRIs who have taken time off to campaign and possibly even vote finally get some time with Arvind Kejriwal and Sanjay Singh. Sandeep, an IT professional who lives in London has been here since February and has worked in voter registration drive and identifying fake voters,"if I get a better system in India, then it is worth it". One of the most enthusiastic is Amit Gupta from Singapore. He has been a BJP supporter but says that BJP is neither transparent nor honest. Amit extended his leave by three days so that he can vote on 4th of December before catching a flight back to Singapore the same night. And then there are Sonia and Alok from Texas, US. Alok, an engineer and IIM graduate says they are here because," it is our responsibility as Indian citizens to bring in a political change, a social change". And so while the Sonia is four months' pregnant, Alok has spent time in door to door campaign taking the message of " our politics" and " change" to various classes of people. Arvind Kejriwal has been successful in channelizing the energy and anger and hope generated during the Janlokpal movement into the AAP. Now, Varun says, " the AAP offers a complete solution". The meeting soon comes to an end. Kejriwal gives into popular demand and sings the famous Dushyant Kumar lines before leaving for Karkaduma Court

aaj yeh diwaar, pardon jaisi hilne lagi

sharth lekin thi ki yeh buniyaad hilni chahiye.


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More about Rupashree Nanda

CNN-IBN Correspondent
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