Divide In Purvanchal Votes Could Mar Many a Chances In Delhi

Sidharth Mishra

It’s lagan (marriage) time in Bihar and one should not wonder that why it’s giving sleepless time to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal ahead of Lok Sabha polling in the national Capital on May 12. During the Vidhan Sabha polls in the spring of 2015, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had fielded around 15 candidates out of 70 from among Purvanchal migrants and most of them had romped home.

He had repeated the formula of empowering ‘Purvanchalis’ during the 2017 municipal polls and had managed to pip the Congress to the 2nd position. If the Purvanchalis are not present in Delhi on May 12 in full strength, bells could toll for the Aam Aadmi Party.

According to estimates, 33.5 percent of the total 1.36 crore voters across the seven Lok Sabha constituency are Purvanchalis. Their presence varies from 24 percent in Chandni Chowk to 41 percent in East Delhi. On the North-East Delhi seat, they constitute 40 percent of the votes, 37 percent in New Delhi, 34 percent in West Delhi, 31 percent in North-West Delhi and 27 percent in South Delhi. Today there isn’t a constituency in Delhi where ‘Chhath’ festival of Bihar is not celebrated.

No wonder that after the thrashing in the 2015 Vidhan Sabha polls, the BJP decided to hoist a Bhojpuri films actor-singer Manoj Tiwari as party’s Delhi unit president. Tiwari, had entered the saffron party just ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, got a ticket from North-East Delhi and won the seat.

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Tiwari ever since has been on the Bhojpuri songs singing spree to woo the Purvanchal voters. All the three parties have fielded at least one prominent Purvanchal candidate – Mahabal Mishra (Congress-West Delhi), Manoj Tiwari (BJP-North-East Delhi) and Dilip Kumar Pandey (Aam Aadmi Party-North-East Delhi).

The migrants from the eastern districts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and some districts of Madhya Pradesh bordering these areas for long have been looking for a role in the politics of the national Capital. The migration from these states started long back and trainloads of people arrived in the national Capital once governance completely collapsed in Bihar under the Lalu Yadav-Rabri Devi regime in the last decade of the last century.

Though the students from the state came to Delhi for higher education as the examination system in the universities of the state started to malfunction much before Lalu Yadav took over. However, with rural conflict and distress increasing by the day, the shifting of the population from the rural and semi-urban areas soon overtook those coming from the cities and towns.

This population in the national Capital found livelihood in the industrial estates, business districts, government offices, realty sector and construction sites in the national capital and refuge in the urbanized villages of Delhi. Soon this population built their homes in the unauthorized colonies of the national Capital, which at the last count were about 1800 in numbers.

Such large population easily converts into political capital, something which the BJP failed top foresee initially depending largely on the traditional Vaishya-Punjabi votes, whereas the Congress gave them limited exposure. Congress leader Mahabal Mishra became the first recognizable face of the Purvanchal voters in the national Capital starting of as a municipal councilor in 1996, becoming an MLA in 1998 and finally a member of the Lok Sabha in 2009. The ‘Purvanchalis’ largely remained with the Congress till the 2009 elections before being wooed by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

This time the stake of the Purvanchal votes is very high in North-East Delhi where both Tiwari and Pandey are vying for a major share in the pie. Congress candidate Sheila Dikshit, given her goodwill in the community and also being daughter-in-law of Uttar Pradesh Congress stalwart Uma Shanker Dikshit should also get her some share in the pie, though her strategy is more focused on wooing back to the Congress fold the large minority votes in the constituency.

In West Delhi, Mahabal Mishra would try to consolidate on the community votes which had spurred his victory in 2009 breaking the myth that West Delhi was a Punjabi seat. Those who follow politics of Delhi would know also that a large portion of the minority votes too in the national Capital consists of the migrants from the eastern districts of UP and Bihar.

During the 15 years of Sheila Dikshit rule in the national Capital, the minorities and the non-Muslim Purvanchalis largely voted for the Congress. This combination the grand old party lost to the AAP in 2013 Vidhan Sabha polls, lost it further in 2014 and 2015 Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections respectively.

Will the AAP be able take the benefit of this patronage once again is the question which is haunting the minds of Kejriwal and his cohorts. If the Purvanchal voters in the absence of any pro-AAP sentiments decide to take early summer vacations, given the marriage season, the ruling party in the Delhi Vidhan Sabha could be left licking its wounds.

There is also an outside chance of chasm within the Purvanchali votes. The upper-caste migrants may go with the BJP, given the preference for the party in their home states. The backward castes may go with the minorities as has been their preference in the states of UP and Bihar. If there is a divide in the community votes, it could toss up a completely new political scenario in the national Capital, throwing the poll calculations of the political pundits and the practitioners completely haywire.

(First Published In News18.com)

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