In a statement that is being largely seen as insulting and objectionable towards the “Purvanchalis”, Delhi CM Kejriwal has said, “One person from Bihar buys a ticket to Delhi for ₹500, returns after availing free treatment worth ₹5 lakh. While it makes us happy as they are people of our own country, but Delhi has its own capacity. How can Delhi cater to people of entire country? So, there is a necessity that situation improves across the country.” With the BJP mounting an assault over this remark, it seems highly likely that the Kejriwal led AAP would regret this remark in the near future.
Kejriwal’s statement looks like a huge political blunder on the face of it. It is important to mention here that Delhi constitutes a sizeable chunk of voters hailing from Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, that is, the Purvanchal region. They form an important section of the Delhi’s voters, constituting a quarter of Delhi’s 2 crore population. They are also a decisive factor in 30 of Delhi’s 70 assembly segments. It therefore, doesn’t take much intellect to understand how Kejriwal’s comment about people from Bihar availing free treatment in Delhi can trigger an outrage against the Kejriwal led party and swing fortunes against the AAP and in favour of BJP when Delhi goes to polls in a few months.
It is not just the sheer size of the Purvanchali population in Delhi that can prove detrimental for the AAP, the political equations are far more complex here. The fact remains that AAP has relied predominantly upon the Purvanchalis as its core voter base for all these years. And now Kejriwal’s statement suddenly gives an impression that the AAP no longer cares for them.
Only recently, a Livemint report quoted a senior AAP leader speaking on the condition of anonymity as saying, “They are one the largest communities in Delhi and are important for any party, not just the AAP. Since the 2015 assembly elections, they have been a strong voter base for the party.” It is also important to mention here that during the 2015 polls, more than a dozen elected members of the Delhi Assembly were from Purvanchal. AAP had won 67 out of the 70 assembly seats. This shows the high proportion of tickets that the AAP must have given to those hailing from Purvanchal and also testified the high success rate that the AAP managed by fielding them.
The BJP, on the other hand is traditionally known as the party of Punjabis and Baniyas in Delhi and has been traditionally seen as a party finding support in the traders’ community. Punjabis are yet another crucial voter base in Delhi. However, over the recent past, the BJP has shown the ability of expanding its voter base beyond its traditional base.
In the Lok Sabha polls held earlier this year, the party secured 56.58 per cent vote share in the National Capital, a feat that couldn’t have been achieved had the party still been relying only on its traditional voter base. The BJP had appointed Manoj Tiwari, a Purvanchali icon and a renowned Bhojpuri artist, as the president of its Delhi unit. The move seems to have resonated with the Purvanchali voters in Delhi who have been able to relate with the BJP.
The AAP’s one final chance of survival in Delhi would have been to compete for its core Purvanchali vote with the BJP. However, by remarking on people from Bihar coming to Delhi for free treatment, Kejriwal has not come out looking grossly insensitive but has also positioned himself for a huge electoral debacle.
Ironically, in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year, AAP’s North East Delhi candidate Dilip Pandey said, “Our work in the health and education sectors have benefited everyone, including migrants who have come here with an aspiration for a better quality of life.” It is clear that the AAP was targeting the Purvanchali vote all this while, but now with Kejriwal’s comments, the party seems to have fallen way off track. While the AAP has seriously upset its core voter base ahead of the legislative assembly polls, the BJP’s social engineering formula seems to be in really good shape with both the Punjabi voter base and now, with Kejriwal’s remarks even the Purvanchali voter base, looking to be in BJP’s favour.