The new entrant on the political scene, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has achieved several firsts. In the present culture of corporate funding of the political class, the party is completely financed by, and in turn dependent on, people's contribution.
From the day it was formed in November last year the party has managed to mobilise over Rs.10.49 crore. As much as 67 per cent of the fund has been collected online, a pattern which is indicative of its support base in the middle class.
The financial achievement was phenomenal for AAP which started from scratch. The party, which was formed on the plank of swaraj, self-rule, and pardarshita transparency, had meagre resources when it decided to make an electoral debut in the Delhi assembly elections.
The aggressive hunt for funds started with mass emails to over five thousand people every day, convincing people to be a stakeholder in the “politics of change”.
In these messages, the party was quite upfront in telling people, says AAP member Dilip Pandey, that if the politics of the country had to be changed, Arvind Kejriwal alone could not do that. “We tried to convince people that ‘change’ will happen only through ‘shared responsibility’ and those who want to see the change, will have to be a stakeholder in this process,” he adds.
Once released in the virtual world, these messages were shared, tweeted, forwarded, and promoted on social media by the ever increasing network of party supporters. AAP has around 3.6 lakh subscribers on Facebook and over 1.5 lakh followers on Twitter. Kejriwal has 6.35 lakh and 6.2 lakh followers on Twitter and Facebook respectively.
Thanks to the online support, the contribution started pouring in and the party now financially sustains itself on what Pandey terms as “crowd funding”. The party flaunts, among its contributors, a Hong Kong-based Non-Resident Indian Amit Aggarwal who donated Rs. 50 lakh and Nidhi, a Delhi student who donated all her savings.
In the political culture where the funding sources of the mainstream parties are largely unknown what gives an edge and a moral upper hand to the party is the fact that anybody can see the details of its contributors on its website. The moment one makes a contribution the details become online.