Tens of thousands join anti-graft party

January 12, 2014 - 6:41:29 am
NEW DELHI: India’s new anti-graft party has signed up tens of thousands of members in a nationwide recruitment drive as it seeks to build support ahead of general elections, an official said yesterday.

The Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party plans to contest seats in the elections due by May following its success in the Delhi state polls last month in which it routed the scandal-tainted Congress party that rules at the national level.

“We had nearly 50,000 people sign up in the first three hours of our membership drive,” senior party leader Gopal Rai said.

The party is spearheaded by Arvind Kejriwal, 44, a former taxman who has modelled himself as an anti-corruption activist and is now Delhi’s chief minister.

Observers say the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) popularity suggests it could become a bigger movement that could threaten the grip of the main parties, Congress, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on national politics.

The AAP has also drawn a string of high-profile recruits in a boost to its national aspirations and efforts to change the face of India’s graft-ridden politics.

Prominent banker Meera Sanyal and GR Gopinath, the founder of a budget airline, are among those who have signed up with Kejriwal’s party.

Kejriwal has said the party’s target is to enrol 10 million members by January 26.

The AAP’s success in the Delhi elections “has spread hope for honest politics throughout the country. So many people want to be a member of the party and work for change,” said Rai.

The AAP will “make a huge difference in the elections,” said KG Suresh, a fellow at the Vivekanand International Foundation, a think tank.

“People are flocking to join the AAP. It’s going to hurt the BJP most because it wanted to cash in on anti-Congress sentiment,” Suresh said.