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AAP joins Bengal poll party

If four’s a crowd in what has traditionally been a two-pronged fight, Bengal’s Lok Sabha battle now has a fifth dimension in the form of the Aam Aadmi Party.

Moving beyond word-of-mouth publicity, social networking and SMS, Arvind Kejriwal’s party has set up an office in Calcutta and named three first-time candidates to take on the Trinamul Congress, CPM, Congress and the BJP.

The AAP trio aiming to sweep the disenchanted common man’s vote are former journalist and activist Mudar Patherya from Calcutta South, oil industry consultant Mihir Biswas from Barrackpore and schoolteacher and Adivasi rights activist Pasarul Alam from Raiganj.

Patherya described his entry into politics as a “natural progression” from his role as an activist. “It comes from a sense that the level of activism I am into should go on to the next level. I have been connected with nearly 40 NGOs and I love working at the grassroots. Things that I do like cleaning and clearing lakes and parks should be on party agendas but no party bothers,” he said.

His agenda is to make things happen. “If I can get into public office, I might be able to leverage my work more effectively. The idea is not to be a ranting politician or make promises about plumbing problems but re-engage the people,” Patherya said.

So what made him choose AAP over the older parties as his vehicle? “The charm of AAP is that you don’t expect a politician per se, but a new niche that is incorruptible. When those like Medha Patkar and Anita Pratap get into mainstream politics, there’s hope for all of us.”

Rights activist Alam decided to jump into the fray after realising that he could no longer be “a bystander”.

“When I see a party has been created to fight corruption and talented students who had left the country are taking time out to come down and do some work for this party, how can people like me stay silent and passive?” he said.

Alam has merged his NGO, formed three decades ago, with AAP. “We are very hopeful of the people’s support given our organisation’s work in the area,” he said.

Delhi-based Biswas is shifting base to Barrackpore for his new assignment. The IIT Kharagpur alumnus recalls the time when “Arvind (Kejriwal) and I were batchmates and would discuss various things, only to do things our own way”. The duo remain their own men but share a goal.

“I was always involved in students’ movements but never got into politics directly. Even as a professional, I have been involved with farmer groups in Gurgaon, MP and recently Bengal,” Biswas, born and brought up in Barrackpore, said.

Avik Saha, a transaction lawyer, is one of the three AAP functionaries running the party’s office that opened on the fifth floor of Hastings Chambers in the central business district of BBD Bag last January. “There was a surge of interest in the party in December and January and then it waned a bit because there was no organisational structure. We are planning to start organising the party after the elections,” he said.

For Saha, AAP is a mission he chose over starting something of his own as a retirement plan.

The Facebook page “Aam Aadmi Party West Bengal” has already garnered 20,234 likes with queries every day from “below 30s and above-60s” on how to join the party.