How a group of interns arm AAP leaders with factual weapons for news debates
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered his fourth Independence Day speech from the Red Fort ramparts on Tuesday, a team of young interns at the Aam Aadmi Party office jotted down every word, dug into official records and after hours of feverish fact checks, compiled a comparative chart, listing out the claims and the ground reality.
Reminiscent of Modi's own social media army in Gujarat, the AAP team of interns - a sound mix of young graduates and students from the country's top colleges including IITs - work round-the-clock to take on its political Opposition with 'solid facts'.
Right from incidents of dengue every year to causes and impact of waterlogging during monsoons, the reports compiled by the team arms party leaders with factsheets as they head out for television debates or press conferences.
THE AAP THINK-TANK
As party leaders, MLAs and ministers grapple with governance and lock horns with political opponents in allegations and counter allegations, the interns, all aged below 26 years, work as the party's think-tank churning out data to back their claims and arguments. "We had two month-long internships to work on MLALAD funds and with MLA offices where interns worked on drafting allocations, facilitating coordination of the MLA office with other agencies and civic bodies, and helped in maintaining proper records. The other ongoing internship is with the research cell that digs up details and documents through RTIs, internet and other source material to create an archive of processed information," explained Arjun Joshi, economics graduate from Delhi University, who heads the AAP's research cell comprising 30 interns currently.
Akshay Chooramani, an aeronautical engineer from Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, added, "During this stint, I have learnt some bizarre facts about governance. How fixing an electricity pole is the responsibility of one agency, whereas if bulbs stop working, the onus lies on another agency."
WHO ARE THEY
Prerna Bhandari, a philosophy undergrad student at Lady Shri Ram College for Women; Kanishk Agarwal, economics undergrad in Delhi University; and Anshul Rai, who is pursuing a computer and mathematics course in Ashoka University are other students who form part of the research cell and take time out from their course work to take a closer look at governance issues in the Capital.
As mathematics graduates and engineers dapple with governance jargon and nitty gritties of civic issues, the hands-on experience comes as a boon. "Many of us plan to pursue a course in public policy eventually and this experience is set to pep up our resume and prepare us much better," said Ananya Chhaochharia, political science graduate from Loreto College, Kolkata, who shifted to the Capital just for the internship.
The interns attached with MLA offices not only helped expedite projects but also put in place documentation work. Saurabh Bhardwaj, Greater Kailash MLA and member of several House Committees, told Mail Today, "There is a gap in the system and MLAs do not have an organised secretariat to administer. That is where relatives and the MLA's coterie come in. But with these independent interns working for elected representatives, it creates a healthy working environment."
"Most interns come from the upper middle class, a section into which the AAP does not have a great reach yet. As they work closely with us and see the situation on ground, they also go back and narrate the real story among friends and family," he added.