Newly formed Aam Aadmi Party makes waves across India

Aam Aadmi Party eyes general elections amid rush of popular support

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 January, 2014, 10:41pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 January, 2014, 10:41pm

A party vowing to fight corruption last month made a sensational debut in the New Delhi state assembly election.

Now an array of prominent Indians, from celebrities to corporate leaders, are joining the country's new political party, the Aam Aadmi Party - or Ordinary People's Party - in droves.

Among the latest in a long list of celebrities to join was internationally known dancer and social activist Mallika Sarabhai, who joined the party with 50 of her friends last week.

A few days earlier, Gorur Gopinath, the man who pioneered affordable air travel by launching the country's first budget airline, also joined.

Other corporate leaders like the former chief financial officer of India's biggest software company Infosys, V Balakrishnan, former India CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Meera Sanyal, and former CEO of Star TV India, Samir Nair, have already joined the party.

Indians living abroad have also donated generously and given up their time to work as volunteers. Hong Kong-based banker Amit Aggarwal donated US$80,000. And Dilip Pandey, who used to work for an IT firm in Hong Kong, returned to India last year to campaign for the party in Delhi where he played a key role in formulating its communications strategy.

"It is mindboggling. We're flooded. So many people want to join. It's as though they figure this is their chance to put their country on the right track," said Pandey.

The usual perception among many Indians is that to enter politics one needed a "godfather", or had to belong to a particular caste, or needed bags of money to fight an election.

But some analysts say the new party is seen to be run more professionally and that is attracting corporate executives.

However, some politicians from the ruling Congress Party and the right- wing Bharatiya Janata Party continue to see the wave of well-known professionals joining the AAP as a temporary phenomenon.

"It's a flash in the pan. These executives will realise they are working with novices and the party can't deliver. It will happen sooner rather than later," said Congress leader Renuka Choudhury. Political analysts have struck a more cautious tone, praising the party for changing, as one commentator said, the "grammar of Indian politics" but emphasising that the future is uncertain.

"We have not seen this kind of revolutionary movement before so we have no idea where it will go. No one can predict. But it's absolutely fascinating," said Parsa Venkateshwar Rao, apolitical columnist with the DNA newspaper.

Buyoed by its gains in New Delhi, the party is determined to push ahead and participate in the coming general elections even though they are only four months away and it has no organisational base nationwide.

It has also launched a campaign to get 10 million members enrolled by January 26.