From actors to doctors and army majors—the outsiders who have stepped out of their day jobs and stepped in to run Campaign 2014.
MANISHA LATH GUPTA (41)
Former Executive vice-president of Axis Bank
Fundraiser for AAP
Manisha Lath Gupta’s day begins with an assessment of the financial health of the Aam Aadmi Party. The former executive vice-president (marketing, electronic banking and retail liabilities) of Axis Bank now wears the Gandhian cap as she raises funds and campaigns online for the party. “In the corporate world, you are trapped in a golden cage, but as the fundraiser of a party that has taken many established political bastions by storm, you learn something new every day,” she says.
Lath Gupta’s transition from the high echelons of the banking circuit to fundraising for the party surprised many of her friends and colleagues. “When I announced my decision to quit my job, there were some who went overboard with their support, but, mostly, reactions were subdued. However, when I met them as a fundraiser, the story was completely different,” says the 41-year-old IIM graduate based in Mumbai, who has worked with brands like Hindustan Lever.
Besides raising funds, she also campaigns for the party’s candidate from Mumbai North East Medha Patkar. In the midst of sloganeering, she whips out her phone to multitask. “Funding is a major issue. We are hoping that the Delhi experience is repeated but it’s quite difficult,” she says. She has to leave the rally midway and head to a networking meeting.
Lath Gupta decided to plunge full time into active politics because she believed the general elections of 2014 would be a turning point in Indian history. “While my husband has been supportive, my children were a bit unsure at first. This mainly stems from the fact that they were proud of their mom’s status and corporate designation,” she says. However, with AAP capturing the imagination of the young, her children now tell her how “cool” she is.
Life as a fundraiser for a newly formed political party that has taken on some of the biggest corporate leaders of the country can be tricky. “In the corporate world, fixing the fundamentals is considered important. We are trying to do the same in governance. If the corporate world does not employ anyone with criminal records, why do we allow such elements to govern us?” she says.
Lath Gupta manages the online campaigns of the party and networks with high net-worth individuals to raise funds. “In principle, people agree with the message of a corruption-free government, but most of them add a caveat—that they also want some short-term benefit like a surging Sensex,” she says. If wealthy families have remained cold to her pitch, she has also been taken by surprise when less privileged people have come forward to donate a day’s salary. Post the Lok Sabha elections, she will continue to work for the party with an eye on the Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana.