A day to go for the polls, and all parties are busy wooing the trading community aggressively. The 25-lakh strong community, which constitutes about 20 percent of the electorate in Delhi, can make or mar the prospect of any party in the capital state.
There are a total of 24 seats out of the 70 where traders and sub castes such as Gupta, Mittal, Bansal, Jain, Agarwal, Goel, Maheshwari and Khandelwal are in heavy numbers and could influence the political balance in the upcoming polls.
The trading fraternity has always been a significant part in Delhi elections. In fact, during the last assembly elections in 2013, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal marketed himself as a representative of the ‘baniya’ community, since he is of the same caste as them. He claimed that he understands business and will protect the interests of his people.
In an attempt to capitalise on the massive support from the community last time, AAP volunteers are leaving no stones unturned. According to a source, AAP volunteers who belong to the ‘baniya’ caste have been given the responsibility to campaign and sway voters from their community.
The party is also trying to exploit an anti-BJP sentiment among the ‘baniya’ voters in the Capital. This is following the cartoon-based poll advertisement released by the BJP insulting Kejriwal for his caste, using the term “upadravi (nuisance causing) gotra”.
Kejriwal was quick to capitalise on the situation and had dragged the attention of the whole Agarwal community, despairing over the insult and demanding an apology. “The BJP targeted my children in their ad, but I kept quiet, didn't react. They has been launching personal attacks on me through their ads, but they referred to the entire Agarwal Samaj as Updravi',” Kejriwal had alleged earlier.
Though the ‘baniya’ community has been seen as a traditional BJP vote bank, out of which the Agarwal caste is a prominent part, such comments may actually end up hurting the party. AAP has fielded 20 candidates from the ‘baniya’ community out of a total of 70 candidates.
As it is, the BJP-led central government has been struggling to address the community's misgivings over Foreign Direct Investment in retail, add insulting comments to the community, over and above that, or at least that is what AAP is trying to portray.
The BJP leaders, however, ridicule AAP’s allegations of demeaning the community. Former Delhi CM candidate for the BJP, Dr Harshvardhan claimed that AAP is unnecessarily blowing things out of proportion and using it for his political gains.
“It’s just a stunt to try and sway voters away. The BJP has always been in good terms with the Agarwal caste as with the rest of baniya community and continues to be so,” Dr Harshvardhan Goel, who is himself from the same community, said. “In fact, I have been meeting with a lot of traders who have resolved to support our party like they traditionally have,” he added.
The BJP meanwhile is also all-out attempting to sway the trading community in their favour. As a matter of fact, 35 out of a total of 70 candidates contesting from the BJP have been openly promoting themselves as traders to gauge their support. Also, 32 out of 70 Congress candidates are also traders.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had identified the significance of the traders in the Capital. He had addressed the Confederation of All India Traders in February 2014 highlighting his progressive measures which will benefit Indian traders and grocery store owners in the country at the inauguration the All India Traders Convention 2014. According to a senior BJP leader, the local cadre will try and capitalise on it.
“As much as 70% of Delhi government’s revenue comes from traders and hence they are an integral part for the functioning of the government and hold significant voting strength. Consequently, we are doing whatever we can to gauge their trust in us,” the BJP leader said.
In the poll fray this year, out of a total of 673 assembly contestants, 209 are traders. Hence, it is abundantly clear that if majority of this community votes for a particular party, they will have a significant impact on the party’s chances to win.
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Updated Date: Feb 06, 2015 20:27:11 IST