How AAP is using ‘Satyagraha’ to ask for votes
by Danish Raza
These days, people coming out after watching Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn starrer Satyagraha in Delhi’s cinema halls, are in for a surprise. They are handed over pamphlets by a group of 15- 20 men wearing Gandhi caps with “I am the common man” printed on them in Hindi. It is a letter from Aam Aadmi Pary (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal to the people of Delhi. “You might have watched the film ‘Satyagraha’ but the real work still remains to be done,” reads the pamphlet which also displays a picture of Kejriwal and the party’s ‘broom’ election symbol. The pamphlet also contains one of the dialogues of the movie where Bachchan’s character says that politics has to be changed not from outside but by joining it from inside. To make this happen in real life, the pamphlet goes on to say, Delhi’s citizens should mobilise people to vote for AAP. AAP volunteers distributing pamphlets outside a movie hall playing Satyagraha: Naresh Sharma/Firstpost Distributing publicity material outside 60 plus screens showing the movie is among the many non- conventional modes of campaigning the AAP has adopted. Initially, party members say, they tried traditional approaches of campaigning.
But after their posters and banners were removed from strategic locations, they turned to other, more innovative ways to send across the party’s message. “Traditional parties have made campaigning a very expensive proposition. We don’t have that much capital. We also realised that traditional ways of campaigning such as holding rallies and giving speeches will not help us beyond a point. Yet, we wish to improve our visibility in the city. The objective is to tell people about the party’s history, its goals and the election symbol.” says AAP leader Manish Sisodia. The party’s campaign team concepualised the idea earlier last week , when, after watching the film at a preview, party member and political scientist Yogendra Yadav asked team members if the party’s message could be disseminated through the film. Kejriwal and other party members watched the film later. “The story is not based on the Jan Lokpal movement, but it is a thought provoking film. It highlights social issues and questions the involvement of youth in running the country. Participation of youth in politics is our endeavour as well,” says party member Dilip K Pandey. It is difficult to gauge how many movie viewers will actually pay attention to the appeal Kejriwal makes through his letter. But the party members are encouraged by the response. Shakeel Anjum, the party’s candidate from the Matia Mahal seat who distributed pamphlets outside a movie hall in central Delhi, says, “Our message starts where the movie ends. The movie has identified the problem. We are giving a solution. Right after the film when people get to see a document which tells them about the Jan Lokpal movement and AAP, they stop and think. A lot of them express anguish about inflation and corruption.” But Satyagraha is just one of the innovative methods used by AAP to generate publicity for its cause.
Away from movie halls, inside the lanes and bylanes of the city, another innovative AAP mode of campaigning is at work. This one, too, is low on capital and high on volunteers. Renu Mishra, a housewife in East Delhi’s Lakshmi Nagar area, has just started eating her lunch when the door bell rings. At the door, is a middle aged man who wants to enquire about AAP. He tells Mishra that he noticed her picture on the board outside her house and discovered that she is the mohalla prabhari (local point-person) of the political party. He is invited inside. While her three year old daughter vies for attention, Mishra briefs the man about the politics of AAP. The banner announcing Mishra as the AAP point person: Naresh Sharma/Firstpost Mishra says she has been an active volunteer with the AAP since its launch in November. But she started getting a stream of visitors only after a board was put outside her house mentioning her association with the party. On the board, Mishra’s picture can be seen along with Kejriwal’s and the party’s candidate from the assembly seat. It also displays the AAP’s poll symbol and other details. Mishra, who is one of more than a lakh mohalla praabharis of AAP, now regularly propagates the party’s views, works with the assembly candidate and tries to add members to its team of volunteers. “Earlier there were only murmurs on who would support the party. But this kind of campaigning has put aside apprehensions. That fear is gone now as it is clear exactly who is with the party,” she says. Recently, the party experimented with what it calls ‘human banners’ to publicise its agenda. Volunteers stood at around 160 flyovers and footover bridges in the city holding party banners. Seen as an alternative mode of campaigning after its material was removed from strategic locations in the city, the party says that human banners clicked with the masses. “It is unusual for commuters to see people queuing up on flyovers to give a message. They were curious and slowed down their vehicles. We were successful in creating a buzz,” says Amit, a party volunteer who stood at a footover bridge in West Delhi. AAP will repeat it frequently to publicise its views. Soon after its launch, AAP pasted its posters on auto rickshaws declaring the party’s foray in Delhi assembly polls. Since the party announced that Kejriwal would contest against chief minister Sheila Dikshit, the posters have been pitching it as a fight between an honest man and a corrupt chief minister.
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