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Mumbai civic polls: Freebies to woo north Indian voters

Political parties relying on the north Indian vote bank are a little worried about people leaving for Uttar Pradesh for its Assembly elections.

mumbai Updated: Feb 21, 2017 00:47 IST
Surendra P Gangan
Majority of the north Indian population that live in the city, hail from Purvanchal or the eastern part of the state. Voting in that part will be held in the last two phases, on March 4 and 8.
Majority of the north Indian population that live in the city, hail from Purvanchal or the eastern part of the state. Voting in that part will be held in the last two phases, on March 4 and 8. (HT)

Political parties relying on the north Indian vote bank are a little worried about people leaving for Uttar Pradesh for its Assembly elections.

Majority of the north Indian population that live in the city, hail from Purvanchal or the eastern part of the state. Voting in that part will be held in the last two phases, on March 4 and 8.

Several north Indians have already gone for the polls in Uttar Pradesh and this could affect the calculations of political parties in some electoral wards in the city. A rough estimate shows that about 4 to 5% of the north Indian population in Mumbai visit their native districts, about 15 in number, that includes Deoria, Gorakhpur, Azamgarh, Gazhipur, Gonda, and Bhadohi to poll for more than 80 constituencies. Many of them are registered in Mumbai as well as in their native places and have political ties at the native places. Since the Assembly polls in UP and the civic polls in Mumbai are clashing around the same time, the parties are busy convincing voters not to leave the city before voting.

The north Indians form the second largest community in the city after Maharashtrians, with the numbers ranging between 26 and 28% of the total population.

“It is true that about 5% of the community in the city joins the polls in their native districts in Uttar Pradesh. Most of them travel for about two to three weeks if their relatives or friends from the taluka are contesting. It is not necessary that they participate in campaigning for monetary gains. In most cases, it’s out of goodwill. Many voters are registered in both the places, but it is not necessary that they will vote twice,” said Anand Shukla, editor of a Hindi newspaper and president of Uttar Bhartiya Ekta Manch.

Some from the community admit that in many cases, the candidates and their parties arrange for their railway and air tickets and also for accommodation and other facilities so that they get the votes. They also admit that many voters manage to vote twice, in Mumbai and even in their native places.

The Congress and now the Bharatiya Janata Party have the support of north Indian voters in the city. Both the parties are busy in ensuring that the voters do not leave the city before voting. The voters are wooed by the candidates with free air and rail tickets. The community leaders, with their influence on the voters, bear importance and are wooed with larger incentives. Trains heading to Purvanchal in the last week of the February and the first week of March have a long waiting list.

BJP’s more than 3,000 incumbent and former officer bearers across the city will be visiting their native places to participate in the Assembly elections. “At least 5% of the 30 lakh north Indians in Mumbai will go to their native places. The political parties that have the community’s support will definitely influence hundreds of voters back home. The BJP has a larger voter base in the UP after the 2014-Lok Sabha elections and it is also important for us to garner votes for our candidates. More than 80% of the north Indian office bearers, past and present , of the party will start immediately after the BMC polls ,” said RD Yadav, former president of Maharashtra BJP’s north India cell.

President of the Congress unit in Mumbai, Sanjay Nirupam, however, said that the number was not too big. “It is a working community and I don’t think people will visit UP at the cost of their jobs.”

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