After a spectacular debut in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is aiming at establishing its footprint in other parts of the country. Known for its unconventional style, slogans, and strategies, the fledgling party, riding the crest of a wave in urban areas after its stupendous showing in the maiden electoral outing and the non-stop media attention, hopes to tap into public disaffection for the political class with its anti-corruption plank.
Launched on January 10, its nationwide membership drive has created a buzz in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh. The party is drawing people from different walks of life. HT looks at some of the prominent personalities, including retired police officers, communists and comedians, who have joined hands with the party.
had about six months ago alleged a nexus between politicians and the drug mafia in the state. He has moved a public-interest petition for letting the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) handle the drug racket case and also supported Sikh activist Gurbaksh Singh, who was on a hunger strike to seek the release of former militants who had completed normal life sentences. "I am joining the party because it is taking up the people's cause," he says. DR Chaudhry (79):A well-known social activist of Haryana, he is general secretary of Haryana Insaaf Society, a forum that has
taken the initiative to unite social activists on various issues. In the past, he has held positions such as chairman of Haryana Public Service Commission (HPSC), and member of Haryana Planning Board and Haryana Administrative Reforms Commission. He has authored several books based on social and state issues. "All the political parties in the system are corrupt to core. There is a political vacuum. The Aam Aadmi Party is seen as a ray of hope," he says. Manjit Singh (61):A re-employed sociology professor at Panjab University, he is known for his Leftist views and prominent
activist role since his student days. He has also remained in jail for several years in the 1970s. On the Panjab University (PU) campus also, he has remained active in teacher-union politics and even served as president of the Panjab University Teachers Association (PUTA). "I joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) so that we can restore the political system, which has got derailed because of the policies of successive governments," says the professor.
Nirmal Milkha Singh (78):Wife of legendary athlete Milkha Singh, she was captain of Indian women's volleyball team for eight
years. Born in Pakistan, she got married to the "Flying Sikh" in 1962, and also served on various positions in the Punjab government and the Chandigarh administration. "I found the issues they (AAP leaders) are talking about very fascinating, issues that should have been taken up after Partition. They have lit a flame in Delhi and you will see its reaction everywhere," she says.
Savita Bhatti (52):Wife of late comedian Jaspal Bhatti, she has also acted in films and satirical television progammes such as "Flop
Show" and "Ulta Pulta", ridiculing corruption in the political system. Now, she runs a school, named after her late husband, and a satirists' group, Nonsense Club, in Chandigarh. Her name is doing the rounds as the AAP ticket contender for the Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat. "I have no other reason to move on in life after my husband's demise. I think he is with me in this decision," she says.
HS Rana (66): A former 1988-batch Indian Administrative Service (IPS) officer, he was holding the assignment of State Police
Complaint Authority (SPCA), Haryana, till August 2013 under the Congress regime. Rana, who is from Karnal originally, was once known to be close to late chief minister Bhajan Lal. "There is a need for systemic change. The AAP stands for clean politics. It is well intentioned and wants to contribute to public welfare," he says.
AS Bhatotia (68): A former 1973-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) of Haryana cadre, he comes from Dungarwas village in
southern Haryana district of Rewari. The former director general of police (DGP) had joined the Bharatitya Janata Party (BJP) but switched, later, to the Congress. He was seen recently canvassing for his son's father-in-law, major OP Yadav, Congress candidate from Mundawar assembly seat in Rajasthan. "I was without work in the Congress. The AAP approached me, saying it could use my experience. Whatever work the party assigns me, I will do to the best of my ability," says the retired cop. Ranbir Sharma (58): A 1990-batch retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of Haryana, Sharma was in a tearing hurry to quit
the service and join politics. The former cop, who still had two years of service left, sought waiver of the stipulated three-month notice period for voluntary retirement. Taken into the IPS from the state police, he is son-in-law of ID Swami, former Bharatitya Janata Party (BJP) parliamentarian from Karnal. "I realised that as a cop, I had a limited scope to work for public welfare, so I decided to join the AAP," he says. VN Rai (61):The 1977-batch retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer is a rank outsider in Haryana. Rai comes from Azamgarh
in Uttar Pradesh, but has affinity with Karnal district, where he served as district police chief and director, Haryana Police Academy, in Madhuban. "It (joining the AAP) was to mutual benefit," says Rai, adding: "I thought if my presence motivated the AAP leadership, then I should support their ideology for transparency. I have no political ambitions." Dr Dharamveer Gandhi (62):A reputed cardiologist of Patiala, he is also a crusader for the rights of the labour class and migrants.
During his college days in Amritsar, he was detained for a month for protesting against Emergency in 1977. He has been in contact with Arvind Kejriwal and went to campaign in the Delhi assembly elections. "Anna's Janlokpal movement inspired me. If we talk about changing the political system, the AAP has provided us with that change. Why should we ignore it," says the cardiologist. Ghulle Shah (52): A popular comedian from Amritsar, Shah, whose real name is Surinder Farishta, is a recognised face in the
television and film circuit. He has worked in a number of Punjabi films in a career spanning more than 25 years. "I have joined the AAP to serve the common folk," says the artiste, adding: "I am also an aam aadmi (common man) who is against corruption. The issues raised by the party are appealing."