New Delhi: The first time entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been brought under the scanner due to a PIL that alleged the party received foreign donations in violation of the law. The party has clarified its stand and claimed that it has raised Rs 17 crores in clean funding and is ready for a probe. It dismissed the PIL as frivolous.
When anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare and his former aide Arvind Kejriwal went their separate ways, questions were raised about the funds collected during the anti corruption agitation. After they split ways, Kejriwal had offered to return approximately Rs 2 crore which was collected during the movement but Anna Hazare declined to accept it. The AAP which is now a political entity and is promising clean politics has vouched for their probity and transparency in political funding.
Referring to a letter to the ICICI bank, the party has politely refused to accept the donation of Rs 50,000 from one Saurabh Garg as the latter is not an Indian citizen. In another instance, they haven't encashed a $ 50 donation from a sympathiser from Boston as the donor had not given details of the passport.
The AAP has however, said that they are open to scrutiny and other parties should follow suit too. "I think it is very good. If we are asked to provide whatever information by the court we will do it. We have nothing to hide anyway. Everything is on the web. Whatever few things we haven't shown, we will show it. But the best part is if we are being asked to show, we would ask other parties to follow suit and show their accounts. See our accounts and at the same time please ask other parties which have 2000 crore rupees, 1000 crore rupees as donations to show theirs," Pankaj Gupta, National Secretary, AAP said.
The party has said that it has a budget of Rs 20 crore for the Delhi elections. At Rs 14 lakh per candidate, the party calculated that it would need Rs 9.8 crore for 70 candidates. Another 10 crores is meant for establishing the party through posters, banners and campaigns. So far the party has been successful in creating Rs 17 crore. Significantly, one third of the contributions have come from Indians living abroad.
Raising clean funds to fight elections has been a big challenge for the party. When the AAP was formed, former law minister Shanti Bhushan's donation of Rs 1 crore on November 26, 2012 gave the party a seed capital. The party is now holding massive door to door campaings to raise funds.
Using social media as an intrument for fundraising has been a crucial strategy. Arvind Kejriwal's google hangouts have been an invulauable tool for funds ( google hangout pictures ) On Sunday, Kejriwal reached out to a modest group in Singapore.
Since online donation campaign was launched January 2013, the party has sent tens of lakhs of emails appealing for funds. By May 2013, the party claims that it was receiving Rs 3-4 lakhs every day which had risen to Rs 10 lakh to 12 lakh rupees every day by October. Through a special drive, on October 19, the party claims to have raised Rs 27 lakh on a single day.
"These hangouts are crucial for raising money because every person over here was a person who was capable of making a good donation who had questions in their mind and they wanted to get those questions answered. We had done a google hangout for Hong Kong where a small number of people were there but we raised a substantial donation. They are all Indian citizens. It is allowed, it is legal. Under FCRA we can take donations from all Indian passport holders even if they are abroad. We are transparent. So anyone can see who the donor is," Party's national convenor Arvind Kejriwal said.
Kejriwal's google hangout was followed by a rally in Patpartganj. AAP activists collected more than 9000 rupees in a span of two hours.
According to the party's claims, the party received Rs 7173622 in May 2013. In June, it went up to Rs 9091381. In July, it breached the Rs 1 crore mark at Rs 15290501. In August, it rose to Rs 26756129. In September, it further graduated to Rs 41947421. By October 25, it total amount of contributions for the AAP stood at Rs 38176017.
Elections in India have always been hostage to big money, much of which is unaccounted for. Mainstream political parties with substantial financial muscle like Congress, BJP, BSP, NCP have stonewalled efforts to open their accounts to public scrutiny. But, even as it is facing questions on foreign donations, the new party is already challenging the existing mould of political funding.