Delhi political parties fight for Chhath credit to woo voters from UP-Bihar
With Chhath Puja around the corner, political parties are, seemingly, trying hard to woo national Capital’s Purvanchalis -- natives of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh -- who celebrate the festival and form a sizeable voter base in the city.
The Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government said it has pressed thousands of workers to ensure celebrations go peacefully with senior members of the Cabinet overseeing the preparations. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress accused the government of politicising the festival while doing nothing on the ground.
Development minister Gopal Rai, who is party’s convener of Delhi unit and its main Purvanchali face in the city, took stock of preparations on the Yamuna banks on Friday. “There were only 60 ghats before the AAP came to power in Delhi. This year we have 1,000,” Rai said, emphasising the efforts made by the ruling dispensation to facilitate the celebrations. Last year, the government had developed 565 ghats.
Meanwhile, The BJP-led municipal corporations, which are responsible for the upkeep of ghats and to provide essential facilities, have also pressed their staff in the maintenance of ghats across the city.
Delhi BJP president and popular Purvanchali face, Manoj Tiwari, acused the Delhi government of false claims during his visit to the ghats earlier this week. He also called a meeting of 800 Chhath samitis (committees) to take stock of arrangements. “AAP government is not at all serious towards Delhi residents, especially Purvanchalis. They claim they have set up 1,000 ghats but have not made any effort to ensure clean water flow in the river,” said Tiwari, who is MP from northeast Delhi.
The population of Purvanchalis stands at nearly 30-35% of the voters in the national Capital, according to Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for the Study of Developing Studies(CSDS). “The festival has assumed more significance over the years. First, the proportion of people from Bihar and eastern UP in Delhi over the last decade has increased. Second, most of those who have settled here have stopped travelling back to their towns and villages during Chhath,” said Kumar.
The Congress, which was the first to tap into the Purvanchali votes, accused its rivals of playing dirty politics.“It is unfortunate that the Chhath Puja samitis are being asked to put up the photos of AAP leaders at the ghats or else they would not be given any funds. They are playing dirty politics to lower the prestige of a sacred festival,” said Ajay Maken, president, Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee.
At the three ITO ghats, which host the biggest congregation of devotees every year, organisers said one lakh people will assemble for the rituals before sunset on Tuesday.