From actors to doctors and army majors—the outsiders who have stepped out of their day jobs and stepped in to run Campaign 2014.
PRADEEP SUNDRIYALAL (40)
Former Senior Director and Associate Vice-president, Zensar Technologies
Campaign manager for kumar vishwas, AAP
Amethi Lok Sabha Constituency
It has been almost two months since Pradeep Sundriyal, 40, resigned as senior director and associate vice-president of client engagement at Zensar Technologies, an IT services company in the US, and returned home to assist the AAP’s Kumar Vishwas with his campaign in Amethi. Part of Kumar’s core campaign team, Sundriyal taps his experience in the IT industry to run the party’s Amethi “command centre”. An outsider in this hotbed of politics, he is responsible for handling data, designating tasks to party workers, communicating with authorities such as the Election Commission, coordinating with AAP’s state and central teams, and keeping a tab on financial and legal aspects. It’s a long list and Sundriyal has come a long way: from growing up in Pauri Garhwal, now in Uttarakhand, where his school did not have tables and chairs, to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he has lived for the past decade, and back here in Amethi.
Sundriyal sits in the party office in a T-shirt and jeans and speaks with a hint of an American accent about why he can relate to, say, the women in Patel Nagar, Delhi, where he campaigned for AAP ahead of the Assembly elections, who get up at 3.30 am to fill their water buckets. “In Garhwal,” he says, “water was a kilometre and a half downhill, so taking a bath was a luxury.”
The son of a UP State Electricity Board employee and a teacher—his parents now live in Moradabad—Sundriyal went through various stages of being an NRI, eventually working with Indian NGOs promoting heritage and culture. After engaging with Indian Americans during Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement, he decided to take three weeks off to fly down to Delhi ahead of the Assembly elections last year. Having met Vishwas through a common friend in 2006, Sundriyal knocked on his door in mid-November. Vishwas told him how haphazard his campaign was. “He was much in demand due to his poetry and there were many requests from the Assembly constituencies and the media,” he says. Sundriyal offered AAP his services, because he saw a Delhi that was the “image of neglect”, where “the common man struggled for basic needs”.
He had barely returned to California when AAP won 28 seats in the Delhi Assembly. “Suddenly, there was renewed interest among the Indian community. When an RJ for an Indo-US radio station asked me if I’d choose matrubhoomi or karmabhoomi, I said, it would be a nice thing if both were the same,” he says. When the opportunity to reconcile the two worlds presented itself this January, he grabbed it. Vishwas was to contest from Amethi and take on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. AAP needed Sundriyal once again. “I discussed it with my wife. I thought I should be in Amethi, not just for Kumar, but for what was happening in the country. And this time, it couldn’t just be a sabbatical from my job,” he says.
From a five-day work week, Sundriyal has jumped into the Amethi battlefield, where every day is Monday. He starts work at 7 am, and is often in front of the computer till after midnight. He misses his wife, a banker in the US, and their five-year-old child. “Whenever the internet connection permits, I video chat with them,” he says. It is thanks to AAP and Arvind Kejriwal that he entered politics, Sundriyal says. “To get into politics, you had to be a goon who could instill fear, or be rich or famous. But now, the middle class is interested in politics and they want to play an active role,” he says. He will return to the US at the end of May. “I’ll think about the future after that. Maybe I’ll work with an NGO, maybe I’ll start an NGO of my own,” he says. “Pradeep says that I have shown courage in facing Rahul and inspired him to have the courage to support my campaign,” says Vishwas, AAP’s poet-candidate. Sundriyal, in turn, believes in Vishwas. “He is a winner either way. But based on the feedback, I’d say we’ll win.”