Bangalores techies log on to AAPs volunteer base

Written by Ajay Sukumaran | Bangalore | Updated: Feb 24 2014, 07:41am hrs
It's past 8 pm in the evening on a Thursday and a commercial building complex off Bangalore's main thoroughfare has emptied out, except for a small office where a group of people is discussing technology. Some of them are just back from a regular workday at the city's IT companies, and it looks like another long night ahead.

It's the back office of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Bangalore and the brainstorming is over what software platform can build in greater transparency into fund-raising as well as make cash donations fool-proof.

The team is an assortment of volunteers and many of them hadn't met till recently. The good news for the fledgling political party is that more help is on the way. There are around 3,000 volunteers already in Bangalore available on call to write software, design posters, manage websites, post comments or prepare publicity material and roughly 7,000 more waiting in queue.

Our HR team needs more people to sort out the applications and assign jobs to volunteers, said Anand Janakiraman, vice-president, software, at Strand Life Sciences, who began volunteering full-time for AAP two months ago after opting for a sabbatical from the Bangalore-based company that develops software and services for life sciences research. This is similar to a corporate organisation and that's where our expertise comes into play. For me, it's just a switch from contributing to science to making a contribution to clean politics, said Janakiraman, adding that he was not associated with the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement. The (impact of) Delhi elections was so strong, I felt something had to be done.

Bangalore's IT-BPO population, which accounts for just under a tenth of the city's population of over 9 million and has long been accused of remaining aloof from the political process, seems to be responding, according to some AAP veterans. We are using IT solutions so that we can do a number of checks, and so that nobody can collect money without being authorised to, said Nitin Sharma, an IT professional who has been with the anti-corruption movement since April 2011. There are people telling us just give us a call and we will work on whatever you need'.

The party also relies on volunteers for its social media presence currently seen to be stronger than rivals. It's very voluntary. In our Delhi campaign, I think we were probably the only party which ran a 24x7 campaign because we had NRIs around the world actually answering emails and making posts on Facebook round the clock, Prithvi Reddy, a national executive member of the party, said at a recent public discussion.

And, I think we have some of the best minds as far as technology goes. I think we were right up there. We had people who took sabbaticals, NRIs who took six months off and helped us set things up.

AAP's back offices in most cities work on similar lines, using a crowdsourcing approach as the party scales up its infrastructure for the Lok Sabha elections, said Aditi, a neurologist and member of the anti-corruption movement.