The Poorvanchalis — migrants from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — have always been a much sought after community in the capital, particularly in times of elections. Constituting nearly 35% of the total 1.27 crore voters in Delhi, they are a force to reckon with in electoral politics and can make a difference in many seats.
With the BJP’s Narendra Modi and AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal are headed for an electoral showdown from Varanasi — regarded as Poorvanchal’s capital — these two parties hope the buzz in the temple town will help them woo Delhi’s biggest vote bank more effectively.
Of the 70 assembly seats in Delhi, about two dozen have a sizeable presence of voters from the region. In the December 2013 assembly elections, both BJP and AAP shared these seats spread across five parliamentary seats, barring Chandni Chowk and New Delhi.
AAP’s North East Delhi candidate Prof. Anand Kumar told HT from Varanasi: “Today’s rally showed AAP’s soaring popularity in Varanasi. This wave will help us get more Poorvanchali votes in Delhi as well,” said Kumar, a native of Varanasi.
The BJP has fielded Bhojpuri artist Manoj Tiwari from North East Delhi. “A number of Poorvanchali voters had started drifting away from BJP. With my candidature, things are changing.”
Senior BJP leader Harsh Vardhan said, “We’re happy with the response in Varanasi. Though we don’t treat them as a vote bank, we are committed to working for their welfare.”
AAP spokesperson Ashutosh differs. “The so-called Modi buzz in Varanasi is on decline. I am from Varanasi. There is massive support for AAP there and this will help us better our assembly election tally in Delhi as well.”
During the assembly elections, the BJP had promised 10 lakh low-cost houses and health insurance to Poorvanchalis besides declaring ‘Chhath’ Pooja a holiday.
“But we realised mere announcements will not do. We conducted a survey to find out seats with substantial presence of Poorvanchalis. There is a change in city’s demography and it has reflected in candidates’ selection also,” said a senior BJP leader.
Despite the ‘Varanasi buzz’, the Congress is not giving it up yet. Congress MP from North East Delhi JP Agarwal said, “Varanasi will not have any impact in Delhi. People, including those from the Poorvanchal region, want development. In terms of performance we’re ahead of others.”
Sitting Congress MP from East Delhi, Sandeep Dikshit, said: “The two candidates (Modi and Kejriwal) were born in neither UP nor Bihar. For any regional feeling there has to be a connect.” Asserting that he hails from UP, Dikshit said, “People in Delhi would judge me or any other candidate primarily on the basis of the work done.”