Baiting the Ballot

A day in the life of an Aam Aadmi Party candidate

01 October 2013
Shazia Ilmi campaigning in Ekta Vihar, a slum in RK Puram.
Shazia Ilmi campaigning in Ekta Vihar, a slum in RK Puram.

ON 30 JULY, Shazia Ilmi and her campaign team crammed into a one-room office of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in RK Puram. Ilmi, who is one of the AAP’s 47 declared candidates, of a proposed total of 70, and will represent the RK Puram constituency in the Delhi Vidhan Sabha elections later this year, wanted to brief workers on a new campaign timetable. “We end up going to the same places too many times. This timetable should help us balance our visits,” she said to a group of volunteers and party workers.

Like many other AAP leaders, Ilmi is a former salaried professional. A television journalist for Star News, she quit her job in 2011 to join the agitation for the Lokpal Bill started by Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal. Then a key member of Hazare’s core team, she now dedicates her time to the movement’s political successor, the AAP. As a new party aiming to build a campaign up from scratch, the AAP faces daunting challenges at every step. “We need to be organisationally strong,” Ilmi said. “Fighting the entrenched systems of existing parties makes such a challenge hard.”

In the middle-class colony of RK Puram’s Sector 5, Ilmi focused on the persona of the AAP’s leader. “Arvind Kejriwal was a government officer too,” she bellowed at people gathered in balconies and gardens. “If he wanted, he could have earned crores of rupees through illicit means. But he didn’t, because he is an honest man.” In adjacent slums, Ilmi faces a greater challenge in building support. “While most middle classes know Arvind Kejriwal, thanks to extensive coverage of him by the media,” she said, “there exists relatively little awareness of our movement in the slums.”

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    Akshat Khandelwal is a writer and entrepreneur based in Delhi, who has contributed to, DNA, the Indian Express and the Financial Express. He tweets as @akshat_khan.

    Keywords: Delhi corruption election campaigns Arvind Kejriwal Indian politics Aam Admi Party