As the Aam Aadmi Party government completes one month in New Delhi on Tuesday, the party claims its membership has now crossed one crore.
However, adding to the humour, after what has largely been a dramatic rule, it was discovered that some of the members the party recruited through its free membership drive included names like Barack Obama, Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi and Angelina Jolie.
Addressing the media on Monday, AAP leader Gopal Rai said the party has 1 crore, 5 lakh members so far. "We have reached 98.46 lakhs membership on January 26. It was just 7 lakh before we started the '1 crore members before Republic Day campaign'. We have achieved our target. People registered themselves as members through mobile phones, SMS and missed calls," he said. The party also has an online form where people can register themselves.
He also added that some hoaxers tried to enroll names like Obama and Modi but pointed out that the technical team of the AAP has deleted such members. AAP claimed that it has not included names they could not verify.
But the fact that fake profiles were easily registered for the free membership tends to raise questions on the very authenticity of the numbers. Questions can be asked if it is possible to verify every member who has registered as authentic. What if the same person has registered twice with different names?
Rai said if somebody goes against the principles of the party their membership will be cancelled. But it is not entirely clear if each and every member registered could be scrutinised for authenticity.
AAP has been able to recognize only the names that appear obviously suspicious as fake. It is easy to recognize that Rahul, Sonia Gandhi and Modi could never be AAP members, and thus delete them as hoaxers. But the question remains if they could do the same with unknown names.
As the membership reached 50 lakh last week, the party said that there were fake people registering names to tarnish the reputation of the party. The 'mein bhi aam aadmi' drive that was launched on January 10 saw an overwhelming response from people and set itself a target of 1 crore by 26 January. But some percentage of the members would definitely be frauds, considering the lack of an authentic system to verify them.
Party sources told the Economic Times last week that a small percentage would undeniably be frauds but most of the members have been contacted via phone and the addresses registered for involvement in party works. Yet there is no way one could recognise if a member is indeed real person or a fake name registered simply to increase the membership.
"After people fill up the online form, there is a declaration at the end which they are supposed to sign digitally. This means that the onus of the information being correct lies on them...But yes, we have received membership forms from one Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi and Jawaharlal Nehru," Ankit Lal, IT and social media administrator, AAP told ET.
The party has now said that it intends to continue the membership drive till the Lok Sabha elections, though it is not clear how many more members it seeks. It would not, however, be surprising if we see a few more strange names like David Cameron, Vladimir Putin or even Nelson Mandela registering themselves as AAP members!