Come October, thousands of non-resident Indian (NRI) volunteers of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will plunge themselves into a routine of making calls on behalf of the party to potential voters in Goa and Punjab for a few hours every day.
After registering a huge success with its NRI-calling programme in the 2015 Delhi assembly elections, AAP is once again tapping its support base spread over at least a dozen countries worldwide to canvas for the party and secure funds for fighting the assembly elections in the two states. As much as 22% of the party’s election funding comes from other countries.
As Goa and Punjab will go to the polls in early 2017, the party plans to re-launch the programme from the first week of October. “We will make more than 60 lakh calls till the start of the elections,” Sreekant Kocherlakota, secretary of AAP’s US chapter, told HT over the phone from Los Angeles.
The Delhi assembly elections had seen over 10.8 lakh calls being made from the US alone, with nearly 2,400 of the total callers dialling more than 50 numbers a day.
At present, AAP has nine overseas chapters in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Qatar, UK, UAE and Italy. “We already have volunteers in Germany, the Philippines and Malaysia. We will formally launch our chapters in these countries before the Punjab and Goa elections,” said an AAP leader involved in the party’s overseas expansion.
The Italy chapter organised meetings with AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal when he visited Rome on September 4. Surrounded by supporters, he recorded a video message announcing his decision to take charge of the affairs in Punjab in the wake of state convenor Sucha Singh Chhottepur’s dismissal last month. “Kejriwal’s message was recorded amid chants of support from Punjabis at the gathering. It helped assuage the feelings of supporters back home, who were feeling disheartened due to Sucha Singh’s exit and the allegations he subsequently made,” a party leader from Punjab said. Chhottepur had alleged that AAP leaders from Delhi were trying to sideline Punjabis.
Last week, the US chapter organised public meetings with the party’s new Punjab convenor – actor Gurpreet Ghuggi – in various cities across the country.
“We have enlisted 10,000 volunteers for the NRI-calling programme. As soon as our volunteers get off work in the evening, they will start calling voters, answering their queries, and telling them about AAP,” says Kocherlakota. While 3,000 volunteers will call voters in Goa, the rest will be used to further the party’s Punjab campaign.
NRI calling: How it’s done
- The NRI volunteer logs into the calling interface created by the AAP IT team in Delhi through his phone or computer. At any point of time, he is connected to one of the 10,000 phone numbers of voters in the database. The system hides the number to keep the data secure from hacker attacks. The age, name and gender of the voter is flashed through the call for better connect.
- The volunteer identifies himself and the place he is calling from.
- He asks the call receiver who he will support. If it is AAP, the volunteer offers to answer queries.
- Arguments and confrontations with supporters of other parties are prohibited.
- A backend process tracks callers and blocks supporters of rival parties from enlisting as AAP volunteers and deviating from the do’s and don’ts.