In Modi backyard, AAP finds feet, for ‘being different’

Since Delhi win, Ahmedabad office has enrolled 1,25,000 members, donations stream in.

Updated: January 12, 2014 6:57 am

Aayojan  Nagar is a quiet upper-class neighbourhood of Ahmedabad, with very few visitors outside its bungalows. But since December 8, when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) stunned the country with its Delhi election performance, the silence of Aayojan Nagar has been broken — by visitors and mediapersons thronging one particular house, H-2, AAP’s Gujarat headquarters.

Naresh Parmar, 45, an autorickshaw driver, is one such visitor. He arrives at 10.30 am, parks his auto in front of the main gate, and walks in. He is glad, he says, to see that the office is “spartan” — a desktop, a laptop, two almirahs, three tables and a few plastic chairs. But the broom, the party’s election symbol, is everywhere — stuck on the main gate, on the bulletin board and even the tables.

The bungalow belongs to Kishorebhai Desai, a former college principal and founder member of AAP in the state who now stays in Surat as its South Gujarat in-charge. He has let the party use his bungalow “for free”. “Everything here — the furniture, computers, etc — has been gifted by party sympathisers,” says Sukhdev Patel, one of only six volunteers who work full-time at the party’s three-storey office.

The six, wearing AAP’s trademark Gandhi topi, have well-defined roles — Mushtaq Belim, a 30-year-old entrepreneur, updates the list of members on a computer; Mitesh Patel, a 26-year-old businessman, drafts media statements; Firoze Kanpurwala, a 65-year-old retired government employee, hands out membership forms to visitors; Sukhdev Patel, a social activist and state party convener, greets visitors and gets a detailed account of each; Jagdish Patel, a 45-year-old who runs an electrical hardware business, and Sylvester Christian, a 36-year-old who quit his IT job in an MNC, are office secretaries.

Parmar tells them he wants to join AAP and work for the party in his area, Dudheshwar. Sukhdev Patel directs him to Kanpurwala, who gives him a form and an “undertaking” that asks him to abide by 12 requirements — including putting the party’s sticker on his vehicle, wearing the AAP T-shirt, wrist band, badge and topi in public, distributing publicity material and arranging meetings in his neighbourhood and among friends’ circles, participating in public programmes and campaigns, inviting at least 10 friends to join the party, and helping the party financially.

Parmar signs the undertaking, fills the form, and pays Rs 10 to Kanpurwala as membership fee. He then pays Rs 15 for three AAP caps — one for himself and two for his auto-driver friends. He dons the cap and promises to return with his friends to enlist them.

I like the simplicity of AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and other leaders. Just see how easily accessible they all are,” says Parmar, hopping out, adding that he had earlier been a BJP volunteer.

Sukhdev Patel says that taking on the Narendra Modi-ruled state is important to “puncture the Chief Minister’s false claims”. “He is misleading the country by claiming that Gujarat …continued »

First Published on: January 12, 2014 6:00 amSingle Page Format
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