Delhi Assembly Election 2020: Why Purvanchalis are a key factor in Delhi polls
It is this “associational politics” and to garner the support of the dominant Purvanchali community that prompted the BJP and the Congress to tie up, for the first time, with regional political parties from Bihar in the Delhi elections.Updated: Jan 26, 2020 16:52 IST
The streets of northeast Delhi’s Karawal Nagar colony are abuzz with conversations over the February 8 Delhi assembly elections. But residents find it “difficult to predict” the outcome of their own constituency.
Locals in the Karawal Nagar assembly seat —it has a sizeable population of people from Purvanchali and Uttrakhand —say they will vote for development. But their regional ties with candidates are an important factor.
Another key issue, they say, is the representation of Purvanchalis —migrants from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar— in the candidate list of the three main parties, Aam Aadmi Party, Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress. Unlike the past elections, when the community got just 2-3 seats, this time the parties have fielded 8-10 Purvanchalis.
The parties are hard selling how they have given the community “adhikar and samman” (representation in Delhi’s electoral politics and respect), apart from the development work they have done in Purvanchali-dominated neighbourhoods.
In Karawal Nagar, the BJP is banking on the party’s Purvanchali face and Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari and its candidate Mohan Singh Bisht (62), who belongs to the Uttrakhand community and has represented the constituency four times in the past.
Bisht is pitted against the Aam Aadmi Party’s Durgesh Pathak (30), who has been actively working in the area for the past few months and the Congress’ Arbind Singh, an activist fighting for the rights of street vendors. Singh is head of the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI). Both Pathak and Singh are Purvanchalis.
Vimla, a daily wager who hails from Patna, said, “People will vote for a party that has worked in the area. Community and caste is secondary. People need basic facilities such as water, electricity and education for their children.”
Almost 40kms away in Shivpuri, in the Dwarka assembly constituency, Kishore (51), a second-generation Purvanchali whose family hails from Vaishali district in Bihar, echoes Vimla’s views.
In his constituency (Dwarka), the contest is between Congress’ candidate and sitting MLA Adarsh Shastri (India’s second prime minister late Lal Bahadur Shastri’s grandson), AAP’s Vinay Mishra (former MP from west Delhi and Congress’ Purvanchali face Mahabal Mishra’s son) and BJP’s Parduymn Rajput.
“It is good that political parties are finally recognising Purvanchalis as a vote bank. But it is the work that matters. This time people will vote for the party that will do development work,” said Kishore, who runs a grocery store.
Like Kishore, Ram Babu Yadav (50), a vegetable vendor in Shivpuri who hails from Chhapra in Bihar, talks about development. But the caste and community of the candidate is important for Yadav, who lives in Delhi with his son and daughter-in-law. “Work is important, but if the candidate is from our community, then we will support him. He will understand our problems better,” Yadav said.
Regional factor in Delhi
It is this “associational politics” and to garner the support of the dominant Purvanchali community that prompted the BJP and the Congress to tie up, for the first time, with regional political parties from Bihar in the Delhi elections.
While the BJP has tied up with Janata Dal (United)-Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), the Congress, which ruled the city for 15 years, joined hands with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
While the JD(U) and LJP are contesting from three seats (Burari, Sangam Vihar and Seemapuri), RJD is contesting in four constituencies (Burari, Kirari, Palam and Uttam Nagar).
JD (U) will contest against its arch-rival RJD and sitting AAP MLA Sanjeev Jha from Burari. The constituency, locals say, has nearly 60-70% Purvanchali population.
The main parties have fielded 10-12 candidates from the Purvanchal community, which has emerged as a dominant force and plays a decisive role in 30-35 assembly segments. The migrant population, which largely resides in the city’s unauthorised colonies and slums, had played a crucial role in AAP’s success in the 2015 assembly elections.
Political analyst Sachidanand Sinha, professor at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), says that by allying with regional parties, the BJP and the Congress are “trying to get the support of the Purvanchal community through associational politics”. While development work will be important in this election, it will have undertones of regionalism, Sinha says.
“JD(U) and RJD don’t have a support base in Delhi. But by tying up with these regional parties, which are known for their caste-based politics, they are trying to strike a chord with the community by invoking association with the region. While development will be a key factor, it might not be the only factor on which people from the community will vote,” Sinha says.
Sinha says unlike the BJP and the Congress, AAP has stayed away from associational, caste-based politics.
Politics over Purvanchal
It was the Congress that recognised the Purvanchal community as an important factor in Delhi’s changing politics scenario and showcased Mahabal Mishra to win over the community’s support for years. But it was AAP that had for the first time fielded the maximum number of Purvanchalis in the 2013 and 2015 assembly elections. Till the 2015 elections, the BJP and Congress used to give 3-5 seats to Purvanchalis.
Acknowledging the change in Delhi’s demography, the BJP appointed North East Delhi MP Manoj Tiwari as its state unit chief.
The BJP has been targeting AAP for allegedly “insulting Purvanchalis”. Tiwari said, “Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has on several occasion insulted Purvanchalis. He had said people come here and get free treatment and adds to the burden. This means people from Purvanchal are a burden on Kejriwal. He later had said that I will have to go if the National Register for Citizens is implemented. He recently made fun of Bhojpuri songs. I have come a long way and it is these songs that have helped me get their support and today I’m the party’s Delhi chief. He has attacked the culture and songs of Purvanchalis. The election result will show what the community feels about AAP.” He had also spoken about “Purvanchal asmita”.
The BJP is also banking on the Centre’s decision to give ownership rights to residents in unauthorised colonies and the promise of ‘Jahan Jhuggi, wahan makan’ to woo the community.
The Congress, which once enjoyed the support of the community in these areas, is hitting out at AAP and the BJP for “misleading people”. “Purvanchalis have played a crucial role in Delhi’s development. It was the Congress that carried out various welfare schemes that benefited the community. They should play an active role in Delhi’s politics. This is why we have given them so many seats. The BJP and AAP have only misled the community and done nothing for them,” said Subhash Chopra, Delhi Congress chief.
Both the Congress and BJP are optimistic that their tie-up with regional parties will help them make a dent in AAP’s support base.
AAP’s Delhi convener Gopal Rai, who is seeking re-election from Babarpur, says the tie up with regional parties for the Delhi elections shows the BJP and the Congress “don’t enjoy the support of the community”.
“AAP has given the community representation in electoral politics in Delhi, respect the community deserved and done work in areas like unauthorised colonies and slums and provided essential services. The fact that they (BJP and Congress) are today allying with regional political parties shows that the community is not with them,” said Rai.