Delhi New Delhi: A cash-strapped Aam Aadmi Party is preparing to launch a door-to-door campaign to raise funds ahead of elections in Delhi after the party’s crowdfunding events in the national capital drew a poor response. Not only were the events thinly attended, the party managed only paltry amounts of money from them.
AAP has so far held three such events, all at the Constitution Club in New Delhi. Its latest crowdfunding event, on 30 November, saw only 29 people turn up at the Constitution Club and the party received just Rs 15 lakh.
Its previous crowdfunding efforts, however, have fared worse. The party collected a mere Rs 10 lakh each in the two other crowdfunding events it held on 23 November and 16 November in Delhi.
While the party will continue with the crowdfunding events, it has also decided to look for other ways to raise money.
AAP now has a separate table exclusively for donations at its Jam Samvad programme, which is underway and in which AAP ministers and MLAs have been addressing gatherings. Donors can either pay by cash or card at these meetings.
The party is also set to launch a door-to-door campaign.
“We will be providing social media links on our printouts and booklets once the door-to-door campaign kicks off so that people have a receipt and are assured of where their money is going,” AAP national executive member Prithvi Reddy told ThePrint.
Ever since the party’s national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had a fortnight ago appealed for help, saying the party does not have the money to fight the upcoming elections, AAP has intensified its efforts to garner political donations.
It has taken it to other cities as well. The party had held a crowdfunding event at a four-star hotel in Hyderabad on 10 November, where 150 donors pledged to donate Rs 20 lakh, of which the party has received 12 lakh so far, Reddy said.
The party also held a similar event in Bengaluru on 7 December while another is scheduled to be held in Mumbai on 14 December.
Party officials said AAP was also considering holding one in Chennai but the logistics were yet to be finalised. There’s also one scheduled to be held in New Jersey over the weekend since an AAP leader is visiting the area at that time.
AAP, ADR differ on party’s finances
While AAP claims it is cash-strapped to fight the elections, there is no clarity on its coffers. The party claims that since 2012, it has received Rs 185 crore, of which 75 per cent is from donors outside of Delhi.
The highest the party received was Rs 54.14 crore in 2014-15 and the lowest was Rs 2.02 crore in 2012-13. While Rs 25 lakh is the largest individual donation, Rs 10 is the lowest.
The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), an election spending watchdog, however, pegs AAP’s donations as a little over Rs 85 crore between 2012 and 2018.
According to ADR, 2014-15, an election year, saw AAP receive donations worth Rs. 35.29 crore while in 2015-16 and 2016-17, the party managed donations worth over Rs 6 crore and Rs 24.7 crore respectively.
AAP’s national secretary Pankaj Gupta, however, said that the discrepancy was due to the way ADR determined political funding.
“The figures of donations received in ADR report are only those of above Rs 20,000 since that is the EC mandate and hence not a true account of the donations we have received,” he said, adding that AAP was transparent in this process as opposed to the BJP, which was “benefiting from electoral bonds”.
The crowdfunding efforts
At AAP’s crowdfunding events, party leaders address the gathering on clean politics before seeking donations.
At the event on 30 November, vice-chairman, Dialogue & Development Commission, Delhi Government, Jasmin Shah, addressed those present on “Competent & Honest Governance … Delhi finally has it. The Entire Nation deserves it”.
National spokesperson Dr Ajoy Kumar, who attended one of the Delhi fundraising events, said, “We mainly share all that we’ve managed to achieve or talk about the work done on the ground — be it education, health or water. It’s like presenting your report card and of course communicating our vision for the future.”
Officials of the party also pointed out that since people tend to donate only closer to elections, AAP was trying to engage them in a way that people don’t limit fundraising to a process only during the election month. “It’s the rundown to elections when the money is required,” a senior party member told ThePrint.
But several of those present at the event said they were regular donors, suggesting that the AAP’s crowdfunding efforts have failed to enlist new supporters.
Donny, a certified chartered accountant and a photographer, told ThePrint, “I’ve been donating for the past couple of years. I believe AAP offers the kind of alternative politics we need. While there have been ups and downs, they’ve managed to stand on their own and that’s what makes me still want to keep faith.”
Rajesh Sharma, in his 40s, who has a trading business, was accompanied by his wife. “The party is working for the welfare of people. I feel I can trust them,” he told ThePrint, adding that this was the third consecutive year he was donating to them.
Not the first time
AAP has a history of turning to crowdfunding to bolster its finances. The party had successfully managed to garner donations through its ‘Selfie with Mufflerman’ and ‘Lunch with Kejriwal’ initiatives in 2015.
Sources in the party said that AAP may launch similar initiatives involving Kejriwal in January next year. But not just the party, even individual AAP leaders have turned to the electorate for money.
In February this year, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, party candidate Atishi launched a crowdfunding campaign for her election to the East Delhi Parliamentary seat. Within hours of the launch, she received overwhelming support for her candidature. Her supporters and well-wishers tweeted #ISupportAtishi that trended nationally on Twitter at 7.
This endorsement from her supporters and well-wishers helped raise funds for the AAP leader. As a result, Atishi’s crowdfunding campaign became the fastest to reach Rs 7 lakh within 24 hours on the Crowdnewsing/Our democracy platform.
Another leader, national spokesperson Raghav Chadha, and Atishi had also reached out to their school and college alumni for funds ahead of the Lok Sabha elections this year.