New Delhi

How much money is required to contest an assembly election? Lots, and it's not easy to arrange that if you are not an established political party, attracting investors with deep pockets without trying too hard. The Aam Aadmi Party has found this to its discomfiture as it readies for polls. That's why it is going beyond the conventional means to collect funds for the party.

The AAP, for the first time in India, dished out fund-raiser lunch and dinner with Arvind Kejriwal - a well accepted method in Europe and the US. And, now it has many more new concepts like Funding chain, Twitter campaign, Selfie with the Muffler man and many more in the pipeline. The party had to go for ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking donations were hard to come by, unlike in the case of the Congress, the BJP or other mainstream parties.

But, do such ideas work in a democracy like India?

“Of course, it works. We’ve been successful in getting donations using such innovative methods. After lunch and dinner, now it’s ‘Coffee with Kejriwal’. Through these methods we are able to connect with the common man. AAP’s basic concept to raise funds was by appealing the mass for ‘funding honest politics’. Moreover, those who participate in lunch or dinner with Arvind Kejriwal get an opportunity to interact and discuss with him the party’s role and objectives, ask him questions and enjoy the meal as well,” said Adarsh Shastri, AAP’s leader and candidate for Dwarka Assembly constituency.

The party has set an initial target of Rs 30 crore for this season. According to a party spokesperson, it has garnered Rs 4 crore so far. The cumulative donation that AAP has received since December 12, 2013 amounts to Rs 43.53 crore. It has come from 117 countries and 122,643 donors. “Once the election date is announced, donation campaign will get momentum,” a party spokesperson said.

While, on a global scale, the party received maximum donation from India (73.8%) followed by the US (9.2%), the UAE (3.5%), Canada (2.5%) and Hong Kong (2%), the highest contribution within India has come from Maharashtra (33.1%), followed by Delhi (21.6%), UP (9.3%), Karnataka (7.5%) and Haryana (5.9%).

“The aim of our fund raising initiatives is to bring absolute transparency to financial transactions. Each and every donation we receive gets automatically displayed on party’s website, while receipts are generated through mobile application. Moreover it’s the white money of the donor, unlike in the case of other political parties, who get large donations that remain unaccounted,” said AAP leader Pankaj K Gupta.

According to the advocacy group Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), while the national political parties received 90 per cent of their donations from corporates and business houses in 2013-14, their individual donors, even for major parties like the BJP and the Congress, never exceeded 1000.

“Whereas, we get maximum donations from individuals and it has exceeded two lakh till date. This also helps us establish contact with individuals. People want to have a dialogue with the leaders, and through donation campaigns or fund-raising dinners, we provide them the platform,” said Gupta.

Besides, the party is also into one-on-one meeting with high net-worth individuals (HNIs). Through its Twitter campaign, a person pledges to pay Rs 100 against each re-tweet on the original tweet. While on the one hand, the AAP’s Karnataka unit launched a donation campaign called ‘Selfie with Mufflerman’ inspired by Kejriwal’s appearance during the last election campaign when he was often seen wrapped with a muffler, on the other hand is the idea of giving a signed copy of ‘Swaraj’, a book by Kejriwal, to all those donating above Rs 25,000 on or before January 1, 2015.

The former Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti on Saturday launched a ‘High Tea with Kejriwal’ in Delhi, where the attendance fee was Rs 20,000. Bharti shared a video on social media appealing people to donate for AAP.

The party on Independence Day had launched fund-raising campaigns like Kranti Express, Quest for Swaraj and 1947, and collected Rs 35 lakh. Now, AAP has decentralized its fund raising exercise. It has assigned party members and the MLAs or contesting candidate of the area to organize similar events with Kejriwal and generate funds for contesting election.

Meanwhile, the AAP is contemplating an idea to reach out to the economically weaker section of the society, the slum-dwellers etc with an initiative called ‘Gud-Chana’ (Jaggery and Gram) for token contribution to ensure votes of this segment.



“It’s like the one that former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had appealed during his rallies – One Rupee, One Vote. Though that Rupee One didn’t cover campaigning cost, it was a token that ensured votes. The donations we receive at AAP are not from unknown sources and donors take pride in posting their photos of fund-raising dinners with Kejriwal on Facebook,” said AAP member Radhakrishnan TR Aiyyer.

The major participants in these highly-priced lunch and dinners are businessmen, traders, entrepreneurs, professionals and even some high-level executives. AAP’s first fund-raising dinner in Mumbai was attended by diamond merchants, investment bankers, young professionals, etc. But, the large donations from the corporates and business houses have always been seen as a means to induce corruption in politics. So, what about AAP, where a meal or a tea costs Rs 20,000-25,000?

“The business houses making big donations in crores, expect favour in lieu when the party is in power. It’s like bribing in advance. And nobody knows about it. But, at AAP it’s different, as a service class individual donated Rs 3 lakh to us, and we issued him a receipt,” added Radhakrishnan, also an office-bearer of Tamil social organization, Mudal Padi.

“Corporate funding leads to conflict of interests. By paying large donations, they get policies drafted in their favour, when the party comes to power,” remarked Gupta. Added Shastri, the former sales head of Apple, “Right from the beginning AAP emphasized on transparency. We don’t have financial muscles to flex as we don’t have unaccounted money to spend. So, we don’t spend extravagantly like the BJP or Congress. Kejriwal spent Rs 3.5 lakh when he contested from New Delhi assembly seat.”

© Association for Democratic Reforms
Privacy And Terms Of Use
Donation Payment Method