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AAP battles major financial crunch ahead of national debut

Aam Aadmi Party is battling a severe financial crunch as it heads into its parliamentary election debut. The party spent around Rs 20 crore for Delhi assembly polls, but realises now that Lok Sabha elections are a vastly different game.

india Updated: Apr 06, 2014 17:44 IST
Gaurav Sharma
Gaurav Sharma

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is battling a severe financial crunch as it heads into its parliamentary election debut.

AAP leaders and activists admit they are feeling cash-strapped after having already fielded 444 candidates all over the country in staggered elections beginning Monday.

AAP, founded in November 2012, had spent around Rs 20 crore on contesting the Delhi assembly polls in which it won a staggering 28 seats and formed a minority government that lasted 49 days.

But the party now realises Lok Sabha elections are a vastly different game.

"Yes, we are facing a severe money crunch," party leader and Delhi's former transport minister Saurabh Bharadwaj told IANS. "So much so that we are struggling on the financial front."

The Election Commission's decision to raise the cap on expenditure by every candidate to Rs 70 lakh in a Lok Sabha election is viewed as a joke in the AAP because its candidates, apparently, can't spend even half the amount.

AAP's New Delhi candidate, Ashish Khetan, has so far spent only around Rs 15 lakh on campaigning. Campaigning in Delhi will end Tuesday evening.

This, party leaders say, is in sharp contrast to the money lavishly spent by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress.

And unlike in the case of the BJP and the Congress, the AAP is finding it difficult to put up even stray large hoardings in a city which is its hub and where it has thousands of supporters.

In the process, barring rare exceptions, the Lok Sabha candidates across the country have been left to fend for themselves.

Since December 12, when the AAP began raising money for the Lok Sabha battle, it has raised nearly Rs 22 crore from donations, small and big, from within the country and abroad.

AAP leaders, including former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, the party's best known face, have held fund-raising dinners.

In desperation, the party has said it is willing to go to people's houses to collect donation.

Whatever money is collected, in cash or online, is meticulously accounted for — making the cash crunch all the more visible.

Despite having ruled Delhi for 49 days, AAP advertisements are not seen in print and electronic media. There are no hoardings on the streets or in Delhi Metro trains.

The party is banking on Kejriwal's charisma, house-to-house visits as well as cheaply produced pamphlets which are distributed on the streets to reach out to voters.

While Kejriwal and other leaders occasionally take flights to travel long distances, the train is the preferred mode of travel for AAP leaders and workers.

With no central funding for candidates, each contestant is expected to take care of his or her campaign expenditure.

They have to pay for the party's trademark white caps with its election symbol 'broom' printed on them.

"Some of our supporters just don't have any money. So others spend on them during campaign," a candidate told IANS.

"After all, it is only fair that volunteers who spend so much time and energy on us should be fed and taken care of."

In Mumbai, the AAP has reached out to small and medium enterprises for funds.

"Despite the financial crunch, good and honest people all over the country continue to reach out to us," Bharadwaj said. "This is the silver lining."