From alumni to crowdfunding, how AAP is trying to raise campaign cash

Sourav Roy Barman
CM Arvind Kejriwal, East Delhi Lok Sabha candidate Atishi at a jan sabha in Laxmi Nagar on Tuesday night. Gajendra Yadav

From invoking alumni pride to reaching out to former workplace colleagues to accepting cash and kind, including packets of biscuit and milk, from the public - four AAP Lok Sabha candidates are trying a mix of it all to fund their maiden poll campaigns.

Atishi and Raghav Chadha, who have been fielded from the East and South Delhi constituencies respectively, have reached out to their school and college alumni for funds. Chadha, a chartered accountant, told The Indian Express that he has mailed the alumni of Delhi-based Modern School - where he completed schooling in 2006 - and those who cleared the CA exam from ICAI (Institute of Chartered Accountants of India - northern region).

Likewise, Atishi - an alumna of St Stephen's College and University of Oxford - has also reached out to alumni networks of those institutions through fundraising events, while also raising money through crowdfunding. "I have already raised Rs 40 lakh through crowdfunding and have been overwhelmed by the response. Apart from this, we have reached out to the alumni networks of my alma mater Oxford University, St Stephen's College and Springdales School through fundraiser events across the country. The faith people continue to have in AAP has been reassuring," she said.

Dilip Pandey, who is contesting from the Northeast Delhi seat, said he is following the AAP's tried-and-tested strategy of directly raising funds from people, while also taking in all forms of donations, including motorbikes and bicycles for volunteers.

"A person came to me saying he cannot do much but arrange milk and biscuits for our volunteers. I said I will be more than happy to accept that. Not that I have much but I haven't spent a single penny from my own pocket so far. My campaign is completely volunteer driven," Pandey, a former Hong Kong-based IT executive, said.

He recounted how people had thrown open their houses, including basements, for AAP candidates during the 2013 Assembly polls, which was the party's first political foray. "For me, it is essentially about sticking to our basics. And one also needs to keep in mind that northeast Delhi is a very backward constituency," Pandey said.

AAP's Chandni Chowk candidate Pankaj Gupta, who has worked with several top IT companies in the past and has also run a software export business, said he is tapping into his professional network and friends from engineering days. "I am trying to tap my network of friends from school, college and workplaces, where I led teams of 400-500 people as a professional. They have created groups on social media through which appeals are made to donate and also devote time for campaigning. Later, we plan to go for appeals in large public meetings. I am spending money on my own as well," Gupta said.

"One advantage that we have is that we don't spend much. The expenses are mostly about pamphlets, arranging food and conveyance for volunteers and public meetings," Gupta, who quit his job in March 2012, added.

Gupta said all the party's Lok Sabha candidates will be able to meet their expenses, which he pegged between Rs 20-30 crore.
Delhi votes on May 12 and most of the candidates had started campaigning in October last year, after they were appointed as in-charges of those constituencies. These four candidates, including Gupta who also looks after the AAP's overall funding, said the party is not in a position to extend any assistance to them. A senior minister said that the party is financially on a weak footing.