Over 60,000 students join TeamPK to campaign for 2019 elections
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, strategist Prashant Kishor will have help from unlikely quarters: College-going students. Over 60,000-odd students have pledged their allegiance on Kishor's new platform, the National Agenda Forum (NAF), to work as campaigners in any strategy that Kishor will work for in 2019. And it does not stop here; the team plans to involve over 1 lakh students.
NAF, a new platform floated by Kishor's team, the Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC), had launched an online poll in July this year to decide on the most capable leader to implement Mahatma Gandhi's 1949 18-point Constructive programme. The poll lists leaders like Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee, Sitaram Yechury, etc. As of now, Modi is leading with a vote of over 45 per cent, with Gandhi trailing with 13. While the team was to unveil the leader's name on August 15 this year, which is also Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, sources inside IPAC said the date could be extended.
Alongside choosing the leader, the team has been carrying out outreach programmes in colleges across the country. A member of the NAF, choosing to remain unnamed, says that by now more than 60,000 college students from 4,020 colleges in over 600 districts have registered to be Part Time Associates (PTAs) with IPAC. The PTAs will carry out the campaign by reaching out to more students and will be given a certificate in return.
The number, by the IPAC member's own admission, is a huge leap from the time Kishor's former team, the Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG), had carried out Manthan, a similar exercise that saw the participation of over 4,000 students from 500 colleges. In addition, over 23 lakh people have participated in the voting process till now. The numbers are significant since, in 2014, the Indian electorate had about 12 crore potential first-time voters, of which 2.3 crores had enrolled with the Election Commission.
While the students have agreed to work as PTAs for any strategy that Kishor chooses to take up in 2019, the team is prepared for some dropouts in case Kishor does not choose to work with a political party of their choice.
Apart from the college outreach programme, the IPAC team has also reached out to more than 500 influencers including Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, Magsaysay winner Baba Amte, Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak, actors R Madhavan and Piyush Mishra, artist Shyam Rangeela, Tushar Gandhi, sportspeople MC Mary Kom, Mohit Sharma and PT Usha, amongst others to help carry out NAF's 18-point programme campaign. The NAF also says on its website that it has the endorsement of the UNESCO.
Apart from asking for people to vote for a capable leader, the NAF also asks people to choose any agenda, apart from Gandhi's 18-point programme, that they are passionate about. Once the results are out, the NAF team will hold meetings with the selected leader to ensure that the agenda points are part for the leader's party's poll manifesto for 2019.
However, questions have been raised about the poll's veracity as it is not conducted by a third-party member. The IPAC member told DNA that the team is "open to a third-party audit".