Kejriwal's AAP draws Indians home as NRIs abandon overseas jobs to promote Aam Aadmi cause

Arvind Kejriwal's AAP is drawing NRIs back from overseas to campaign on its behalf

Arvind Kejriwal's AAP is drawing NRIs back from overseas to campaign on its behalf

Arvind Kejriwal's idea of driving change by installing a government of common people is attracting Indians abroad in droves - people who are keeping their careers on hold for months to come to India in support of his cause.

Take the case of Munish K. Raizada, a Chicago-based neonatologist. He has shut his medical practice for the time-being to be with Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) till the year-end, that is till the assembly election results are out.

Jaynath Mishra, a retired lecturer from London, regularly visits slum clusters in the Wazirpur area of north Delhi for the AAP's mass contact programme.

Rajesh Singh, a US-based software engineer, and Subhash Tanwar from Ghana are now in India to lend weight to AAP's mission for change.

The NRI and PIO supporters of Kejriwal's party are camping in Delhi in the firm belief that the idea of governance by the common people will work this time, and AAP will play a major role in the coming assembly elections.

Dr Raizada, who has been associated with Kejriwal since the inception of the party, said that NRIs and PIOs back AAP for what it stands for.

"We believe that the culture of politics in India needs to change. Here, politics has become a bad word. There is no dearth of talent and wealth in this country, yet we are so poor. We can compete with any other developed country, but we are far behind," he said.

Dr Raizada is a member of the volunteer engagement programme. His task is to assign roles to volunteers from across the country for the coming assembly elections in Delhi. He said that there are at least 50 NRIs who come to AAP's headquarters in Connaught Place's Hanuman Road, and they do different work.

"Some of them have started staying here in the city. Others have come here for a few days and will return after completing their work with AAP. But there are those who have assured us that they will come back soon to work for the party," he added.

HOMECOMING FOR AAP CAUSE

Jaynath Mishra had watched the Lokpal movement led by Anna Hazare on TV at home in London and was impressed.

"When I heard that Arvind Kejriwal has launched his party to contest elections, I could not resist my temptation to support him. He is intelligent, dedicated and selfless and I have complete trust in his leadership," said Mishra.

On his visits to the slum clusters in Wazirpur he said he found it painful to see people living in those filthy colonies.

"I don't know what the government has been doing all these years for the people of this city," said Mishra.

Support from NRIs had started pouring in for Kejriwal when a group of Indian-Americans from 20 cities held a meeting in Chicago in May this year and pledged their support for what they saw as the political movement of change being spearheaded by AAP.

Support grew after Kejriwal, speaking to his supporters through live video conferencing, had talked about AAP's role in India's growth and outlined what NRIs could do to push this agenda. It seemed to have a salutary effect on those who heard him.

Among those who stepped up to the AAP cause and its idea of change were those who had heard him that day. And like Jaynath Singh, who visits the slum clusters in north Delhi, these NRIs are ready to rough it out in the grime.

Rajesh Singh, for instance, starts his day meeting people in Chhattarpur. He said that he was at the Chicago meet and had heard Kejriwal.

"I heard him through video-conferencing and that was enough to change my mind. I vowed to work for the party for my country," he said.

The success of the Chicago conference appears to have convinced the AAP leadership about holding similar meets. Recently, Kejriwal spoke to NRI donors in the US and Hong Kong, also via video conferencing. There is hope that more NRIs will join Kejriwal's line of supporters.

After all, it was at the first convention of AAP in the US in May that a resolution was passed saying that NRIs have a crucial role to play in the political movement being spearheaded by the anti-corruption activist.

Harshvardhan is BJP's choice for CM's chair

By Rahul Kanwal in New Delhi

Dr Harshvardhan, the BJP's CM candidate for the Delhi elections, enjoys a clean image

Dr Harshvardhan, the BJP's CM candidate for the Delhi elections, enjoys a clean image

The BJP has decided to project Dr Harshvardhan as the party's chief ministerial candidate for the Delhi Assembly elections. This decision comes after internal and external opinion polls showed the BJP on a sticky wicket in Delhi under the leadership of Vijay Goel.

Highly-placed sources in the BJP have told Mail Today that the decision to project Harshvardhan has been taken since the party wants to go into the elections with a leader who has a clean image as its CM candidate.

It was in February this year that the BJP appointed Vijay Goel as the chief of its Delhi state unit. However, his eight-month tenure has seen a high level of factionalism and in-fighting with the BJP failing to emerge as a strong alternative to the ruling Congress government in the state.

After experimenting with Goel, the BJP has now come around to the view that in an urbanised centre like Delhi, the image of a candidate leading the charge for the party is of paramount importance for voters and Goel seems to have failed to inspire the trust of the party cadre. Senior leaders have received multiple complaints about his image and style of functioning.

Internal polls conducted by the BJP showed a high negative rating for Goel even among traditional BJP voters, with party loyalists not thinking of the BJP as a serious challenger to dethrone the Congress government.

According to the C-Voter Opinion Poll done in August for the India Today Group, Goel had an approval rating of a meagre 12 per cent compared with political debutant Arvind Kejriwal, who managed to notch an impressive approval rating of 21 per cent.

Despite facing three terms of anti-incumbency, Sheila Dikshit led the race for CM with a strong approval rating of 40 per cent.

The decision to anoint Harshvardhan will be formalised by the BJP top brass over the next few days.

Delhi goes to the polls seven weeks from now, on December 4.

Congress unhappy with poll panel move

By Kumar Vikram in New Delhi

The Delhi State Election Commission has tightened the noose on the politicians who violate the model code of conduct. The poll panel's move, however, has not gone down well with the political parties, especially the Congress. Most of the parties have already raised objections against the strict functioning of the electoral officers.

Surprisingly, the ruling Congress is also feeling the heat of the crackdown. This was exposed when Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit along with her Cabinet colleagues met Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath on Tuesday.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit
Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath

Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit (left) met Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath

Sources said the delegation had gone to meet Sampath in view of the continuous crackdown on parties by the chief electoral officer.

The delegation went to meet the state poll panel chief with 10 points. MAail Today also got a copy of the points, which states that there is lack of uniformity in the rules set by the election commission. It has also raised objections on the price list of different items, including tea and posters, decided by the poll panel.

Reacting to this, Delhi's Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev said: "Strict compliance of model code of conduct will be done in the state to ensure smooth and fair polls."

Senior officials said it is for the first time that the election commission has become so ruthless in ensuring the compliance of the model codes of conduct.

SHEILA'S LIST OF COMPLAINTS

Poll spending under scanner

By Mail Today Bureau in New Delhi

Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev

Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev

Candidates contesting the upcoming Assembly polls in the Capital will have to watch what and how much they spend for rallies and campaigning, as the State Election Commission (EC) has decided to maintain a close watch.

The EC decided to maintain a "shadow expenditure log" for all candidates to curb on unauthorised spending. It has come up with a list of all possible expenditures incurred by candidates during the polls and has also fixed the rates for each of such expenditures.

For instance, a cup of tea and biscuits would amount to Rs 9, while a lunch would cost between Rs 129 and Rs 190. Installing waterproof tents for campaigning would be charged at Rs 49 per square meter, and the respective amount would be added to the concerned candidate's share of expenditure.

The fixed costs will make it easier to keep track of the expenses incurred by each candidate. According to Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev, the EC decided to prepare a list of each item used during the election process and fix their rates to serve as a ready-reckoner to help calculate expenditure.

Four teams have been constituted by the Delhi EC as part of its multi-pronged measures to crack down on candidates indulging in over-expenditure during the upcoming Assembly elections.

A static surveillance team, flying squad team, video surveillance team and video viewing team will keep a close watch on polling activities across the city.

EXPENDITURE LOG