THE Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is fast emerging as the preferred political platform for different social groups in Maharashtra. After Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), 28 social groups active in the fields of tribal welfare, farmers and women’s rights are set to join the party on January 18. These groups are led by activists from North Maharashtra, Vidarbha and Marathwada regions of the state. Prathibha Shinde of Loksanghar Manch, Shekar Sonalkar of Chatra Yuva Sangarsha Vahini, Abhijeet Hejshetti of Chatra Bharati, Shyam Nilangekar and Katha Asawe are some of the the activists who have decided to join the party. Working for many years at the ground level on various issues, these organisations have a very strong presence in the state. Nearly 40,000 members of these organisations have now decided to join the party. For many of these social organisations, the name of AAP might be new, but its leader Arvind Kejriwal has been an old friend. Kejriwal had contacted Shinde and others to be the founding members of the party a year ago. In fact, he has been in touch with these organisations since his days as a social activist and had stayed with them to observe their work. Shinde’s Loksangharsha Manch has taken up the issue of tribal rights in Jalgaon, Dhule and Nandurbar. Sonalkar has been in various spheres of social activism and had been associated with JP Narayan’s movements too. But this is the first time many of these organisations are stepping into electoral politics. At present, Sonalkar’s Chatra Yuva Sangharsha Vahini works with students from various communities in the interior parts of Marathwada. These social groups started thinking of joining active politics after the success of AAP in Delhi elections. “Most of us had nothing to do with electoral politics but have practised extra-parliamentary politics. But for us, getting our due rights have been very difficult given the power structure of the present society. Our decision to join AAP and actively support it in the sphere of electoral politics is translation of the popular sentiments on ground,” said Shinde. Political analysts have pointed out that it would be difficult for AAP to penetrate into the ground levels given the present political equations. Sonalkar agreed that while Maharashtra might present a different social picture, AAP’s message of a corruption-free society had a universal appeal. “Corruption hits the poor and the marginal sections hardest. We need to fight it through the legislative method so that they get their due,” he said, adding that during his trips to the interior parts of the state he had noticed that the name of AAP had reached every nook and corner. Sonalkar pointed out that the work for the new party was cut out as they needed to develop a common manifesto for the country. “In Delhi, the party asked from the people to spell out their problems and experts mulled over it to bring out solutions. This method of drawing up the manifesto is very unique and we have to do the same across the country,” he said. Anjali Damania, AAP convenor in Maharashtra, welcomed the groups’ decision. “The support will help the revolution that AAP ignited in this country grow leaps and bounds,” she said.
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