Indian Express

Kejriwal’s two dinners, AAP looks at Rs 50 lakh in kitty

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Over 250 people have pledged a minimum of Rs 20,000 to attend a Saturday night fundraising dinner in Bangalore for the Aam Aadmi Party where Arvind Kejriwal will be the star attraction.

The fundraiser is being held at the modest Capitol Hotel, down the road from the Vidhana Soudha and Raj Bhavan and is expected to bring a cool Rs 50 lakh to the party’s election kitty, making it AAP’s biggest fundraising event.

In fact, Kejriwal will attend not one but two dinners on Saturday evening. Prior to the fundraiser, he is scheduled to speak and dine at an event organised by the Bangalore chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organisation, a global network of chief executives.  While the YPO dinner, at the plush Ritz Carlton Hotel, is not billed as a fundraiser, the executives are expected to pull out their cheque books after listening to Kejriwal.

The actual fundraiser is the brainchild of a Bangalore-based group, Well Wishers of Aam Aadmi Party. The dinner is along the lines of the high-profile political fundraisers in the US.

“We did not want to do anything run-of-the-mill to raise funds,” said Joe Fernandes, of WWAAP. The former IIT graduate who mentors start-ups in Bangalore said, “The voice of AAP is new and so are our fundraising methods.”

Unlike fundraisers in the West, the Saturday dinner is not a ticketed event but an event where the minimum donation is Rs 20,000. “We are hoping people will show up and be generous,” he said.

Rallying attendance for the event is Bala, or V Balakrishnan, former CFO of Infosys, who has just been named the AAP candidate from Bangalore Central.  Bala’s email to his network offers the opportunity for a “no-holds barred” discussion with Kejriwal at the fundraiser event. Many of his friends had pledged support, Bala said.

Among those who are forking out Rs 20,000 for an hour to listen and interact with Kejriwal are IT professionals, real estate developers, businessmen, architects and doctors.  The organisers said several attendees are coming from Mysore and a small group of AAP supporters is even flying in from Singapore.

One person has been sponsored by a group of ten who have pooled funds and delegated him to attend the dinner on their behalf. The AAP supporters are trying to pull off similar fundraiser in other cities, Fernandes said.  “We are up against political parties who can spend hundreds of crores,” he said.

AAP is exploring several unconventional strategies to raise funds, including Rs 10 donations from lower-income individuals and Rs 50 donations from mid-income individuals. It has also set in motion a “Sponsor Your Candidate” campaign where individuals can pledge upwards of Rs 2,000 to back their choice of AAP Lok Sabha candidates.

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