The stark difference between Mumbai and Mumbai’s politicians becomes apparent when it comes to migrants. While the city accepts every new entrant in its folds, its politicians are quick to alienate the ‘outsider’ in order to attempt the Marathi manoos. In Delhi, however, it is this ‘outsider’ whom the politicians woo.
Migrants from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have often become soft target for regional and local parties in Mumbai, whereas in Delhi this group, referred to as Poorvanchalis, is considered to be a game-changer and cannot be ignored or alienated.
The BJP and the Congress are both busy wooing Poorvanchalis ahead of Assembly elections in December. Roughly one-third (about 40-50 lakh) of the capital’s voters are Poorvanchali migrants.
“The Poorvanchalis, particularly those from Bihar, are the biggest chunk of Delhi voters, whom political parties cannot afford to ignore,” said BJP member and Bihar native Poonam Azad. She lost the 2003 Assembly elections in the state. “The Poorvanchalis are politically conscious and ensure that they cast their vote.”
Poorvanchalis’ domination of Delhi is evident by their sheer presence; from bureaucratic circles to daily wage workers, these migrants are spread across the capital’s geography. Majority of these migrants are also occupants of Delhi’s unauthorised colonies — a fact shrewdly exploited by the ruling Congress-led state government. Chief minister Sheila Dixit’s government recently regularised more than 1,600 unauthorised colonies in the capital, no doubt keeping in mind the interest of this chunky vote bank.
In the 2009 general elections, the Congress had played the migrant card to its advantage in Delhi.
The party fielded a Bihari candidate, Mahabal Mishra, from west Delhi even though the area is dominated by Sikh and Jat voters. Mishra won the election.
But while wooing the migrant works in the capital, Mumbai has a different trick up its sleeve.
“Politics has become regionalised in Mumbai,” said Congress MP Priya Dutt, who holds the northwest Mumbai seat. “Regional political parties talk about ‘our vote banks’ and do not allow the caste system to get out of the political sphere.”
The Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), who ride high on Marathi votes, state that it is the question of ideology and not politics. “As a political party we stand to protect the interest of those who are a domicile of the state. We put our ideology before politics,” said Shiv Sena spokesperson Rahul Narvekar.
Experts say that the need of identity politics in Mumbai and Maharashtra evolved after the state of Bombay was separated from Gujarat and merged with the Marathi speaking parts of Maharashtra.
“Political parties, such as the Shiv Sena, have survived because of this identity politics,” said Madhu Kishwar, a senior fellow at Delhi’s Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. “For Sena, targeting the other regional and linguistic groups is the easiest way to keep its local votes intact.”
Kishwar said there is no question of anybody being an ‘outsider’ in Delhi. “Delhi is the capital and so it cannot belong to one or another regional minority. No political group in Delhi can afford to identify any community as an outsider,” she said.