Mayank Gandhi (64) was the face of India Against Corruption (IAC) as well as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Maharashtra. However, he left it all in disgust. What is interesting is that for the past few years he has been engaged in rural transformation through his Global Parli Project. He has inspired thousands of farmers to diversify their crops and adopt effective agricultural practices and helped boost their incomes significantly. S Balakrishnan spoke to him about his career and creative work. Excerpts from an interview:
You were one of the close associates of Arvind Kejriwal and in charge of AAP in Maharashtra. When and why did you quit?
The party had veered away from the original goal of changing the political culture and nation-building narrative to one of power seeking. I found myself intellectually incapable of being a part of this changed party. Power over principles was not acceptable to me.
Kejriwal’s stars appear to be on the rise. After repeating his victory in Delhi he captured Punjab. What accounts for his success?
The focus on satisfying primary needs of the poor by giving free power and water has made him a favourite of the electorate. Also, focusing on the aspirational needs of good education has made him popular. Advertising in an extraordinarily large way has created a brand and image of being pro-poor. Non-BJP voters, amongst them Muslims, Dalits, SC, ST, are being wooed in a big way.
Do you think Kejriwal has moved away from the ideals of IAC?
Kejriwal has moved away from the nation-building agenda that we used to propagate in the IAC movement [and now he is into] power seeking.
What made you start the Global Parli Project?
I had a desire to transform the nation and I believed that there are other paths to serve the nation besides politics. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhiji’s observation that “the soul of India lives in its villages”, I chose Beed, the worst area of India, where there was maximum farmer suicides, poverty and drought. I feel that if we can transform this area, then we can transform India.
How successful has been the experiment?
Since 2019, we have created a mass movement of farmers to improve their lives. Water harvesting, planting remunerative plants, and increasing incomes have been achieved by over 18,000 farmers. More than 3,75,00,000 fruit trees have been planted, increasing annual income from Rs25,000 per acre to above Rs1,00,000. The environment has also been enhanced and in the last four years, since we started planting, it has been an excellent monsoon for the region. Beginning with 15 villages, we are now working in 2,800 villages in 27 districts of Maharashtra and MP.
What are your future plans?
We will continue to expand our nation-building work by including more villages, districts and states to pull thousands of more farmers from the poverty trap. We are also making a centre of excellence for training farmers to adopt practices that can multiply their incomes.