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How AAP, Arvind Kejriwal could change the face of Delhi politics

In the past one year, if there is one political party that has sent the entire political spectrum into a tizzy it is undoubtedly the Aam Aadmi Party. With barely a year since its launch, the Arvind Kejriwal-led party is set to take Delhi's political circles by storm in the upcoming 4 December elections.

While there are still those that are skeptical of the party's success, almost all election surveys have given the party a thumbs up. Its own survey (the fifth and final one) has predicted a 36 percent vote share, followed by BJP with 27 percent and the incumbent Congress at 26 percent.

But what is it that has got the electorate connecting with AAP? The most significant 'connecting factor' that works for the debutant party is its ability to connect with the middle class - in Delhi at least - an important vote bank.

Take the New Delhi constituency where Kejriwal will take on incumbent Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit. Over 60 percent of the vote in the constituency is of government officials and their families - the predominant middle class in the country.

An AAP volunteer during a political rally. AFP

An AAP volunteer during a political rally. AFP

If a recent Economic Times survey is to be believed, Kejriwal is set to serve Dikshit her worst ever defeat. The survey shows Kejriwal winning more than two times Dikshit's vote share.

“Kejriwal stood to win more than 40 percent of the votes – followed by BJP candidate Vijender Gupta (21 percent) and then Dikshit (20 percent) at third position,” the ET report states.

Another important factor that the party believes will work in their favour is the candidates they have chosen to take on Delhi's bigwigs. In Old Delhi's Ballimaran constituency, AAP has fielded Farhana Anjum who will take on Congress' Haroon Yousuf, a four time MLA from the predominantly Muslim area.

"Women, mostly among Muslims must also lead," she says seeking to fight the stereotype that Muslim women must be 'reserved'.

In Mangolpuri AAP has fileded Rakhi Birlan, a journalist, whose mother is a sweeper employed with the municipality, to take on Congress' four time MLA Raj Kumar Chauhan.

For Bilan fighting these elections means putting an end to what she calls a pricey ticket phenomenon where development takes a back seat.

"You know that for the Congress and BJP you need to have at least Rs 2 - 5 crore to get a ticket... I don't belong to a crorepati family... I just want to serve my constituency if elected," she says. "If AAP can rise a person to the skies then AAP can also bring that person back to Earth."

But will this mass popularity turn into votes for the AAP? Hundreds of AAP volunteers who have even taken sabbaticals to join the movement, believe the party will emerge as a major king-maker in the elections.

Meticulous planning right down to the booth level is what they hope will swing votes in their favour. Vishal Hindustani, an AAP volunteer, who is working in Matia Mahal constituency demonstrated it. He said that of the four wards in the constituency, their candidate's rival has 80 percent support in just one. Their main focus therefore is on the three other wards.

"When we went there, we decided to stratergise around his weak points... whatever his weak points are, we are going to focus on that," he said.

AAP's political campaigns in the city have also struck a chord with voters in the city. From stickers behind autorickshaws to street plays and banners hanging across flyovers, volunteers from across the country are enthusiastically trying to gain the attention of Delhi's voters, promising sweeping changes if elected to power.

"People don't really watch TV any more to see these messages but these stickers behind autos often catch their attention," says Ram Kirpal, a B Tech engineer who is campaigning for the party.

But it's not as if the party has not faced its share of controversies. A PIL in the Supreme Court had sought an investigation into the foreign funding that the party has received. While Kejriwal has claimed that all the details of contributing funds have been posted on their website, the Congress and the BJP have said the government needs to immediately order a probe into who is funding the party.

Last month, a sting operation carried out by a little known media establishment, claimed to have 'exposed' how AAP volunteers would 'offer their support' to anyone who offered to fund their party. The party's 'internal Lokpal' dismissed the claim saying the sting was out to malign the party's image and it had not broadcast the entire truth.

With a day left for Delhi to go to polls, will AAP be able to convert the mass support they claim to have into votes? Will their extensive manifesto ensure a landslide victory defeating Delhi's most popular CM Sheila Dikshit? The answers will be known only on 8 December.