Venkatesan is a daily-wage labourer near Kuppur village in Dharmapuri. He depends on his son for his daily dose of news from one of the Tamil dailies.
A member of the Dalit community, he is used to identifying parties by its symbols. While he had backed the ‘Two Leaves’ and the ‘Rising Sun’ in previous elections, his eyes light up at the mention of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
“Theriyum sir. Thodapam thane. Avaru CM aanare (I know. It is the broomstick. He (Arvind Kejriwal) also became Chief Minister),” he says.
Despite being dubbed an urban phenomenon, there is surprising awareness of AAP even in interior villages across the northern region of the State. But the lack of a strong organisation base may hit the party in converting this awareness to votes.
Saminathan of Singaralapalli says he keenly followed the developments after the recent Assembly elections in Delhi. Though he subscribes to Mr. Kejriwal’s campaign against corruption, he will take a call on supporting the outfit only after interacting with its leaders.
“None of them has come here. We know Mr. Kejriwal but who are the others in the party?” Mr. Saminathan questions.
In Kakkangarai near Tirupattur, Dharman, a 54-year-old mason, says he welcomed the party’s strident attack on price rise, something that has directly affected his family. But he has no knowledge about what the AAP’s stand on key issues, especially caste.
“What is their ideology? No one has come here to campaign and tell us,” he points out. The case is similar in villages surrounding Vaniyambadi in Vellore where voters say they will be cautious about experimenting with a new entrant when there was no information about its agenda. “They will say many things on TV. But how will we know they will do every thing they say?” asks Nausheen Fatima, a home maker.
State Campaign Committee Coordinator of the AAP David Barunkumar says the party was aware of its organisational limitation in many areas of the State. This was why it has avoided contesting in all 39 seats. The challenge before it was conversion of awareness into votes.
Many party candidates, he says, are people who are activists themselves or have been part of large grassroots movements. “We will leverage on the network our candidates have already established. In the seats we are contesting, we will ensure a visit to every village before April 24,” he points out.