iconimg Friday, September 04, 2015

Gaurav Saigal, Hindustan Times
Varanasi, April 11, 2014
A 15-foot by 8-foot room, an earthen water pot, ceiling fan to beat the heat at 37 degrees Celsius and volunteers working out their campaign plans on three laptops next to a bunch of brooms – the party symbol.
This is the AAP office in Varanasi from where Arvind Kejriwal is contesting the election against the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and the Congress party’s five-time MLA Ajay Rai. The office is spartan compared to those of the other political parties. The reason: AAP has fixed a budget of Rs. 10 lakh for direct canvassing among 10 lakh voters out of the city’s electorate of about 16 lakh. This is despite several NRIs expressing their willingness to fund Kejriwal’s campaign.

“Arvindji has asked us not to go over Rs. 10 lakh, if possible, and we take his word very seriously,” says Prerna, who is coordinating the party campaign with a team of 500 volunteers, 80 of who are from Banaras Hindu University.

Travel expenses for door-to-door campaigning, distribution of pamphlets and AAP caps and food and lodging for volunteers is all chronicled. “It’s Arvindji’s constituency, so we don’t want to take any chance,” said Eshwar, owner of a few passenger vehicles, who has come all the way from Lucknow to work as a volunteer.