It is by now known to everyone who follows the news that there is an AAP National Council (NC) Meeting scheduled for March 28, 2015. What is less well-known is that #AAP Volunteers have been putting in a lot of effort to ensure that ALL NC members are informed about the meeting, the notice of which was sent out by e-mail. As several volunteers have pointed out, the AAP has NOT made public the list the NC members; the list was eventually brought to light thanks to a sustained RTI appeal. Subsequently, volunteers began sending e-mails and conducted a calling campaign to inform NC members of the meeting, which was necessary since many of the e-mail ids of NC members were no longer functional.
Now this calling campaign is being dubbed “lobbying”, even by mainstream media, with a Times of India article citing one such call to “party worker” Manish Guliya by a volunteer named Aarti. I quote the article verbatim here:
“Manish Guliya, a party worker, claims to have received a call from one Aarti on Tuesday morning, who spoke to him for close to 20 minutes in an effort to convince him to support Yadav and Bhushan.
“The call came at 9.30am and Aarti said she and some others had acquired a list of all NC members and were calling each of us to find out what we think about the open hostility within the party. She then tried telling me her version and how some decisions taken by Kejriwal were not in the party’s best interests and how he is occupying two posts.”
“She then asked me to attend a meeting on March 27, the time and location of which was not revealed. My problem is, whatever I may think about the issues of the party, this is not the way to call people and lobby like this,” said Guliya.”
It is debatable whether the writer of the ToI piece, Neha Lalchandani (@toi_NehaL), made any effort at all to find out who “Aarti” is, although I have inquired of her via Twitter if she has (and will update this post with her response).
By a curious quirk of fate, Aarti happens to be the same AAP volunteer through whom the information on the calling campaign and the RTI-obtained NC member list were made available to Aamjanata.com. Her rebuttal of the ToI piece, sent via e-mail, is reproduced below:
“We stick to the script and talk about the real issue i.e. long term sustainability of AAP considering the compromises on core principles. You have seen all my emails to AAP and NC members; that is basically my take.
– We are NOT taking anyone’s name when we call
– We are asking questions you see in the script
– Question about Lokpal inquiry is asked only if people venture in that direction.
– We are working for #UnitedAAP and Not Lobbying for ANYONE.
– In fact we have voiced that we are not volunteering for any person(s). We volunteered for this movement!
Note that I have been writing to ALL NC members including top run leaders and L. Ramdas. So, nothing is a secret mission – Practicing transparency here.”
Aarti has also shared the script distributed to those who volunteered to participate in the calling campaign, as well as the sample response sheet, as shown below:
Fig. 1 a,b,c: Directions for Calling Campaign
Fig.2: Response Sheet
Another fact that comes to light from Aarti’s e-mail and directions is that NC members have also opted to meet informally on the 27th, i.e. a day before the scheduled official meeting. This, it appears, is an effort by some NC members themselves, as this letter from Dr. Rakesh Parikh (@drrakeshparikh), one of AAP’s founding members, indicates.
In his e-mail to Aarti, Dr. Parikh mentions that “around 100 people have been touched upon and 70 have agreed”. It may be asked if the ToI journalist’s exclusively covering the viewpoints of a Manish Guliya and a Sadanand Rai, but not a Dr. Rakesh Parikh, is a clear case of cherry-picking. Has Ms. Lalchandani asked other NC members if they were also targeted for such lobbying? Also, how was she able to access Guliya and Rai?
It is also crucial to note that Aarti is not the only volunteer complaining about unfair reportage. A Facebook post by Raj Redij-Gill also adds to the tale, as quoted in full below:
“Incorrect reporting by media as usual. Volunteers across India and the globe are calling up the publicly available NC member numbers. None of them are battling for one side or another and this is a mischievous report to reinforce one view of this conflict. The reporter could also have added more balance on how Delhi based NC members are being called to meetings in small groups to put across a “pov” ….sort of velvet glove discussions. Just like how MLAs were arm twisted into signing the petition wink emoticon http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/…/articlesh…/46603280.cms”
The efforts by NC members towards meeting not once but twice, and those by volunteers to ensure that the NC members attending are the original ones, are both crucial to the functioning of the AAP, which owes its success tremendously to its volunteers across the globe. Unfair reporting thus stands to destabilize the very structure that gives the AAP its strength.