Rising importance of Chhath Puja in New Delhi marks growing clout of Purvanchali voters in national capital

Even as Delhi braces itself for 2019 general elections, this Chhath Puja, a prime festival among the Purvanchali voters, kept political leaders on their toes as they wooed this crowd of migrant electorates. If the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government increased the number of facilities nearly by double for the devotees to celebrate Chhath Puja, the BJP blamed the government for not doing enough.

As per sources in the Delhi government, the total number of ghats facilitated this time around by the government for devotees in Delhi was 1,055, which is nearly double than the last year's number of 565. The number of such ghats for Chhath Puja was only 72 in 2014.

The rise of AAP in Delhi’s politics has also seen an increase in the importance of the Puvanchali segment of electorate in the capital city’s politics. Nearly a dozen candidates with Purvanchali ancestry from the AAP won seats in the 2015 Assembly election in which the fledgling party swept 67 out of 70 seats.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The support of migrant voters from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in the upcoming Lok Sabha election is likely to play a decisive role for AAP.

As per an estimate published in Hindustan Times, there are nearly 40 lakh Purvanchali voters in Delhi who are largely concentrated in the JJ clusters and unauthorised colonies.

Before upsurge of the AAP in Delhi, Congress spent a large part of its resources in wooing these voters. But Arvind Kejriwal, who spent a considerable length of his career as a social worker in the Sundarnagari slums in Delhi before joining politics, struck a chord with them in the 2015 Assembly polls.

It is widely believed that the landslide victory the AAP secured in this election was due to large-scale voting it received from this community. The belief is adequately bolstered by the figures of vote share of different parties in that election, which show large-scale shifting of votes from the Congress bastion to that of AAP.

In the 2015 Assembly polls, the AAP bagged 54.3 percent votes. The BJP got 32.2 percent of the vote share, while the figure for the Congress was a mere 9.7 percent.

On account of absence of any pre-poll seat-sharing arrangement with the Congress before 2019, AAP runs the risk of losing these voters to Congress, which makes keeping them in good humour imperative for the party.

No wonder AAP leaders have an elaborate schedule to attend Chhath Puja celebrations.

Information shared by AAP sources say that party leaders Dilip Pandey and Raghav Chadha are scheduled to attend nine Chhath Puja functions each. Pankaj Gupta and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s schedule has six programmes each listed in the schedule for the two days of Chhath.

BJP, which is eager to weave an equally strong narrative to woo Purvanchali voters, found a powerful leader in Bhojpuri star Manoj Tiwari and posted him as the Delhi BJP chief in 2016. The party now is accusing the AAP government of not providing enough facilities to the devotees of Chhath Puja.

As per a report published in The Hindu, BJP MLA Vijender Gupta alleged that arrangements made by the government were not enough.

“The Chhath Puja samitis had been asking the government to set up permanent ghats along the Western Yamuna Canal for the past three years, but to no avail,” the report quoted him as saying.

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Updated Date: Nov 14, 2018 19:03:25 IST

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