ON 23 AUGUST, the Rotary Club of Delhi Midtown, one of the many local chapters of the Rotary network in the city, hosted an interaction with Arvind Kejriwal, the founder of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), at The Imperial hotel in Delhi. The Rotary is a network of associations of businessmen, traders and community leaders that are in turn affiliated to the Rotary International, the umbrella body that defines its guiding principle as a commitment to community service.
Since the launch of his party in November last year, Kejriwal, in the run up to the state assembly elections for the national capital, has been on a relentless campaign trail across the city, meeting resident welfare associations of various middle-class neighbourhoods, organising rallies in slums, and has even addressed students at the Indian Institute of Technology. The party has been able to build a massive volunteer base, reported to number over 150,000, and claims to have generated funds to the tune of Rs 16 crore. It has also adopted innovative marketing strategies, such as putting up banners on the backs of thousands of auto-rickshaws thanks to the support of the rickshaw unions.
Until very recently, it appeared that the AAP would draw most of its support from those on the lower rungs of the social ladder. For one, their campaign has been built around the narrative of the current government’s poor record of providing basic services in the city, like water, electricity and healthcare—issues that have historically resonated with the poor. The party’s election symbol is a broom, perhaps selected for its working-class symbolism, intended to rally the numerically significant base of the city’s slum-dwellers to its cause. But more importantly, Delhi is a city where the affluent and the middle classes have long respected patronage and old lineages, which are controlled by the two big parties—the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. They see Kejriwal as a political upstart with a brash attitude, given to raking up controversial issues. That he floated a political party on the back of an anti-corruption movement, which was supposed to have no political ambitions to begin with, may have led many to retrospectively question his political agenda.