Chanda-bandi hits Aam Aadmi Party while it runs down note-bandi

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been in the forefront of fighting note-bandi (demonetisation) by terming it anti-poor and a scam. For the same, its party members including supremo Arvind Kejriwal have been making all kinds of claims – mostly dubious, mischievous, and downright lies – even as the party opted out of some local body elections, allegedly because it didn’t have enough money to fight them.

It can’t be said with certainty that the funds shortage that the party is facing is entirely due to demonetisation, but it seems that the party will have to deal with more problems with its fund-raising in the coming days.

A former member of the party and ex co-convener of the NRI cell of AAP, Dr. Munish Raizada has asked for “Chanda band Satyagrah” where he is asking people to not donate to AAP till the party puts the list of donors back on its website. He has launched even a website for the same.

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It should be recalled that AAP had won a lot of public support after it declared that it will focus on funding itself by collecting chanda (donations) from the common man rather than by accepting big donations from corporate houses or anonymous donors with suspect intentions. The party claimed that this way it will be accountable to the public and work for their interests rather than working for groups with vested interests.

To showcase the donation process and to claim transparency in its dealings, the party put a public list of donors on its website. The list was updated in real time and one could know the quantum and frequency of donations the party was receiving every day. This indeed was different and welcome approach when compared with other political parties of India.

There were some loopholes right from the beginning e.g. one could enter fake names and contribute to the party fund. People used names like “Narendra Modi” and “weloveYedaKejriwal” (sic) to contribute. But the party claimed that these were minor issues as all donations were accepted either through digital means or through cheques, thus there was proper documentation in the backend.

But the claim of proper documentation received a serious setback in February last year when the party couldn’t explain properly how it received 2 crore rupees and who were the real donors. The party continued to claim it as a conspiracy against itself and instead pointed fingers at dubious sources of funding of other political parties.

Nonetheless, the list of donors continued to exist on its website and the party would often use the data (donation trends) to claim how the party continued to receive public support. There were numerous news articles citing how donations jumped after any ink attack on Kejriwal or any other allegation.

But in July this year, the list of donors was taken off from the party’s website. July 6 was the last date on which the party updated its list of donors, after which one found the following message in place of the public list:

Screenshot of AAP's websitee
Over six months have passed, but it still says “coming soon”.

The other donation related links and features on the party’s website continued to function without problem though i.e. one can still donate using their online form and digital transaction – something that the party supporters are nowadays attacking after some Twitter accounts were hacked. People assumed that there might be some technical issue and the list will be back in a few days.

However, even after six months, the party has not put back its list of donors on the website.

There has been wide range of speculations over why the party has decided to go back on its promise of transparency. Former AAP leader Yogendra Yadav believes that the party is no longer receiving substantial donations from the common man and it has become like yet another political party getting funds from “traditional” sources, which is why it is not showing the list to public.

Such chatter has now led former supporters like Dr. Munish Raizada to announce chanda-bandi till AAP makes it funding public again. He has even called on people to assemble at Raj Ghat in Delhi on 24th December at 10 AM to do satyagrah if the party doesn’t bring back the list.

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