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Aam aadmi ranks swell

- Long line at membership drive

The aam aadmi — from gay activists to homemakers, businessmen to retired professionals — queued up at Metro Channel to join the AAP on Sunday, a day after Arvind Kejriwal was sworn in as Delhi chief minister.

By the time the six-hour membership drive ended, the fledgling Calcutta wing of the party had “close to 1,300” aam aadmis in its ranks. “The number of enrolment has surpassed our expectations. The germ of an idea is gradually spreading,” said Prem Chowdhury, one of the “mentors” of the Aam Aadmi Party in Bengal.

The new members belonged to a wide spectrum, mostly rank outsiders in the political rainbow but driven into it by AAP’s promise of “clean, good governance”.

“Those in the queue were the silent majority of common people chasing the dream of good governance that almost none of the political parties has succeeded in fulfilling. AAP may be a bubble but the disenchantment among the people (towards the established political set-up) is real. There is no reason to think that their numbers are low in Bengal,” said a political analyst tracking AAP’s activities in Calcutta.

Though AAP’s presence in Calcutta had been limited to online forums, SMS campaigns, street-corner meetings and talking to people on local trains, Saturday’s swearing-in of Arvind Kejriwal as the chief minister of Delhi upped the party’s Bengal sweepstakes.

Less than a week after the Delhi poll results, AAP held a rally from College Square to Dorina Crossing on December 15. “Thereafter, we have been flooded with queries from the aam aadmi about the process of joining the party. We thought organising a membership drive will be useful,” said Saroj Prasad, a member from Howrah.

The party still does not have an organised structure in the state and only recently it has opened an office on Kiran Shankar Roy Road.

“Give us some time to take our message to the interiors. It may not be that very huge a number (Sunday’s enrolment) but is there any instance in Bengal’s history when so many people have come on their own to become a member of a political party?” Chowdhury countered when confronted with the question of numbers.

“We opted for an online membership drive because it guarantees transparency. Our seniors in Delhi will monitor each and every form,” said Ranjana Singh, AAP member and one of the organisers of the drive.

She and other members, sporting the trademark aam aadmi topi, worked on four laptops and printers from 11am — barely getting time to lift fingers from keyboard and pop their knuckles till 5pm. “So many people are in the queue and many more are on their way. A busy day ahead, indeed,” said Ranjana around midday.

The aam aadmi wannabes had to provide contact details, email ID and information about their vocation along with Rs 10 to become a primary member. They got printed receipt in return as proof of the membership.

If those who lined up looked distinctly different from the faces at a Trinamul or Left rally, many AAP hopefuls on Sunday had reservations about the new party too.

“Political parties make tall promises but seldom keep them once they come to power. Power overshadows ethics,” said Ravi Pandey of Kankurgachhi. Despite his doubts, he joined the party at the end of the day.

VOICES

Mohammad Jamil

Works in a private company

Ripon Street

If anybody approaches me for my views and ideas, I will be glad to share with them. There is a lot of scope in doing work for the aam aadmi.

Sangita Sonthalia and Ritu Sonthalia (sisters-in-law)

Home makers from Phulbagan

For the first time we have stepped out of our houses to participate in an activity like this because Arvin Kejriwal and his ethics have inspired us in a big way.

Alka Kedwal

LGBT activist

Tegharia

I am joining to represent the LGBT community I belong to. I believe we will get Arvind ji’s support

Virender Singh

Businessman

Bhowanipore

All the mainstream political parties have failed the common people. We must give Arvind Kejriwal an opportunity. He has been working for the aam aadmi for over a decade.