It was a parliamentary seat where the Congress took a long time to declare a candidate. The suspense was justified with a dark horse emerging the winner, apparently in acknowledgement of the Purvanchali voters in the city.
Dwarka MLA Mahabal Mishra was chosen over contenders like advocates KTS Tulsi, RK Anand and National Minorities Commission member Harsharan Singh Josh and fellow MLA Mukesh Sharma.
West Delhi has pockets with concentration of voters from the community in areas like Matiala, Najafgarh, Uttam Nagar and Janakpuri. And according to the Congress leadership, Mishra, who is called the ‘Lalu Yadav of Delhi’ fits the bill. It is an image he has carefully nurtured over the past 10 years.
“The positive impact (of my candidature) will be felt in all the seven seats,” said Mishra, hinting at the growing significance of the Purvanchali (those from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh) vote-bank.
Delhi Congress chief Jai Prakash Aggarwal seemed to agree with Mishra. “There is a huge Purvanchali votebank in the city, but where is the icon for the community? BJP denied Lal Bihari Tiwari a ticket, but Congress has chosen a Purvanchali,” said Aggarwal.
In the intense lobbying that went on for weeks, Mishra had insisted that 22 per cent of the voters in West Delhi were “migrant workers” and that if he were not given a ticket, the disgruntled electorate might go with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which had eaten into the Congress votes in the last Assembly and MCD polls.
West Delhi has traditionally been considered a Sikh- and Punjabi-dominated seat, explaining the Congress deliberations on a Sikh candidate. It now has an overwhelming percentage of OBC voters (20.58%). The next biggest chunk are Punjabis at 13.30%, followed by SCs (12.62%) and 9.46% Brahmin voters.
An ex-serviceman who retired from the Signaling and Telecom division of Indian Army, Mishra came to Delhi from Bihar during the infrastructure boom of the early ’80s at the time of the Asiad Games. He bagged a ticket to the civic polls in 1997 to become a corporator and an MLA a year later. Over time, his winning margin has gone up from 1400 to 14000 votes.
While campaigning, Mishra will juggle issues like the Delhi government’s achievements (“Commonwealth Games, girl-child education etc”), inflation (“it’s a temporary phenomenon”) and works in the housing sector. “I had been a member of the DDA, influencing government policy towards urban housing for poor. I will showcase all that,” he said.
But he knows that now the battleground is spread over areas where his trademark politics may not hold sway.
The West Delhi seat already has a BJP tilt and the pundits have predicted an internal backlash, as Mishra’s nomination could polarise Purvanchali and non-Purvanchali votes. “Mukesh Sharma’s unhappy supporters may very well spoil Mishra’s game. It will be interesting to see how he manages,” said a party insider.