Membership trickle turns flood after Delhi AAPswing

The party is yet to collate the number of applicants seeking a ticket for the Lok Sabha elections.

Written by Saritha Rai | Bangalore | Updated: January 9, 2014 2:46:45 pm

Following its dramatic debut in the Delhi elections,the Aam Aadmi Party has been swamped as lakhs of people across the country are registering for its membership and thousands are seeking to contest the Lok Sabha elections on the AAP ticket.

It is a continuing deluge that has caught the party completely unawares.

“We are the fastest growing political party – we have received some 200,000 online applications for membership in the past month and an equal number or more membership applications offline,” said Prithvi Reddy,the Bangalore-based AAP national executive member.

The party is yet to collate the number of applicants seeking a ticket for the Lok Sabha elections. “It is in the thousands,we can’t say accurately,” Reddy said.

It is a remarkable surge for the upstart party.

For instance,in Karnataka the party had just a few thousand members last month and a mere hint of an urban presence outside Bangalore at the time votes were being counted in the Delhi assembly election.

AAP’s complete unpreparedness to handle the gush came to light this week when former Infosys CFO V Balakrishnan announced that he had joined the Aam Aadmi Party.

But Reddy said neither he nor any others at AAP in Delhi had heard of Bala’s entry. “If he has registered for membership online,it is hard to know. We are trying to now connect with him over the phone but he is unreachable,” he said.

Balakrishnan was reported as saying that he had registered online for membership as AAP had created a revolution in the country and captured the imagination of young Indians everywhere.

“It is the best start-up by an IIT-ian,” he was quoted as saying,referring to the IIT pedigree of AAP’s founder and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.

So far,AAP has had no big guns or popular names to boast of amongst its members. Balakrishnan is among the first,alongside banker Meera Sanyal in Mumbai and Lal Bahadur Shastri’s grandson Adarsh Shastri,a former Apple executive.

On Friday,G R Gopinath,the founder of India’s first ‘aam aadmi’ airline,Air Deccan,announced he was joining AAP. Gopinath had contested and lost the last Lok Sabha election as an independent candidate.

But party supporters are already agog about AAP’s prospects in Bangalore. “We want AAP to do a repeat of Delhi in Bangalore,” said Abhishek Rao,a law student who has begun campaigning for AAP.

Bala’s entry into AAP has sparked speculation in the city on whether it will be a Nandan Nilekani versus Balakrishnan “all-Infosys” battle for the exalted Bangalore South Lok Sabha seat.

Infosys co-founder Nilekani has expressed eagerness to contest the seat on the Congress ticket. He stepped up his intent a notch by meeting former chief minister and union minister S M Krishna,presumably to seek his support for his own candidature.

AAP’s Karnataka convenor Reddy said it was too early to speculate on who would be the party’s candidate for the prestigious seat. Bangalore South has among the highest percentage of educated,affluent urban voters among Lok Sabha constituencies.

Meanwhile,it is not the furious pace of membership enrollment that has the party’s leadership worried but the sheer force of “common man” aspirants keen to contest the Lok Sabha elections on the AAP ticket.

“We have to vet the applicants and choose the most suitable and honest amongst them to fight the Lok Sabha elections,” Reddy said,but did not elaborate on how the party would vet thousands of applicants.

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