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AAP walking tightrope by pushing for locals in Delhi colleges and jobs while trying to get the support of Purvanchalis

There is no airtight definition of diaspora politics because political parties make big efforts at assimilating a particular community, but can’t upset the proverbial applecart, leaving other voters disillusioned with it.

This compulsion gave rise to a certain narrative. Earlier this month, at rallies in Malviya Nagar and Burari, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal pushed for full statehood for Delhi while promising employment and housing for all city residents. “The day Delhi becomes a full state, 85 percent of all jobs in Delhi will be reserved for Delhiites,” the chief minister said.

On Saturday, the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's office, demanding 85 percent reservation for Delhi voters in jobs and colleges, but the PMO did not agree.

This is contradictory to the party's pro-migrant stand. Purvanchalis, who hail from the Hindi heartland, essentially East Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, make up a quarter of Delhi’s population and are nearly 42 lakh strong. A big part of this population comprises migrant workers. Both BJP and AAP have acknowledged the community as the new dominant vote bank which dominates the East Delhi and North East Delhi constituencies and has a sizeable impact in constituencies like Burari, Seemapuri, Gokalpuri, Karawal Nagar, Kirari, Badli and Nangloi. As per the Election Commission, in Delhi, there are at least 20 Assembly constituencies or 80 municipal wards where Purvanchalis constitute 17 to 47 percent of the vote.

 AAP walking tightrope by pushing for locals in Delhi colleges and jobs while trying to get the support of Purvanchalis

File image of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

AAP isn't alone in realising the need to acknowledge the eventual growth in the vote bank. In 2012, during civic elections, Delhi BJP fielded 18 Purvanchali candidates and 12 managed to win, and in 2017, the party gave tickets to 43 Purvanchalis and 34 won. With a view to reaching out to Purvanchali concerns, BJP made Manoj Tiwari party president in the capital. In 2017, Firstpost reported a story on the need to break diaspora politics to get the Purvanchali vote in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi elections and focus on public policy reform instead of cultural outreach through a familiar face.

The Purvanchalis rallied behind the BJP in the election. One reason for that was that the Delhi BJP unit invoked Modi’s 'vikas' in a civic election. Under the 'Sampark for Samarthan' campaign, senior leaders, including Tiwari and booth-level office-bearers, went door to door and talked about the Modi government's achievements. The Delhi BJP unit cashed in on the prime minister’s appeal in the 2017 MCD elections and the party’s performance improved considerably since the Vidhan Sabha elections of 2015, when it had only won three seats.

Ever since then, the battle to woo the migrant vote has become intense. AAP, by virtue of being in power, has given emphasis to reforming government schools and focusing on mohalla clinics. Aside from that, the party has given special emphasis on the quick completion of the Signature Bridge that connects Purvanchali-dominated areas across the Yamuna to Delhi. The recently inaugurated Pink Line of the Delhi Metro — that connects East Delhi’s populated areas like Trilokpuri, Khajuri Khas and Bhajanpura to South Delhi — has also improved connectivity with the east of the state with the other parts.

Dilip Pandey, AAP’s candidate from North East Delhi, has been running the campaign on the Uttar Bhartiya Swabhiman Yatra to instill pride among the community. Pandey has nearly over 2,000 foot soldiers campaigning for him at the ground level and is working aggressively on policy and pride outreach within the community.

Interestingly, the process of transition from a ‘migrant’ to a ‘local’, who can cast his or her vote, has also become smoother. In 2015, Kejriwal launched an e-ration card facility to cut down the delays in preparation and delivery of ration cards to beneficiaries. Last year, AAP MLA from Timarpur Pankaj Pushkar had said that two lakh new people will be added to the ration card scheme. He had mentioned that owing to labour migration, many poor people had arrived in Delhi, and this includes many who hold ration cards of their respective states.

On one side, the party is pushing the Purvanchali agenda through its pro-migrant policies. The number of chhath ghats (set up for the festival that worships the rising and setting sun, celebrated in the Hindi heartland) increased from 72 in 2014 to 1,055 in 2018. The urgency to absorb migrants into the voter base is critical to politics in Delhi. On the other hand, AAP is projecting itself as a guardian of the local Delhi residents through its reservation push in colleges and jobs. There’s a contradictory narrative that seems to be born out of the compulsion of vote bank politics. AAP cannot afford to boldly state its pro-Purvanchali stand because it can upset its formerly more dominant Punjabi Khatri-Baniya vote bank.

Another reason for introducing Delhi statehood as its primary poll plank is to distance the local voter from the fact that this is a national election where voters vote to elect the next prime minister. Kejriwal is repeatedly raising the issue of statehood right before the election and explaining how that’ll enable its government to execute its policies. The identity of the Delhi local is far more fluid than anywhere else in the country. There is no single language, there is no single culture. The sense of emotional belonging in this melting pot is overpowered by the public convenience a political party can offer its people and a testimony to this is seen in the way it votes in Vidhan Sabha elections.

Next year’s state elections will be a referendum for AAP’s decentralised public policy efforts on health and education. But, as far the ruling party in Delhi is concerned, the upcoming elections are all about catching the attention of the voter by contradictory narratives, one that quickly blurs boundaries between the outsider and the local and the other that immediately distances the locals from the rest of the country.

Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.

Updated Date: Apr 03, 2019 18:07:08 IST

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