Delhi 2020: Why BJP’s Focus On Purvanchalis And Biharis Goes Beyond Nitish-Shah Bonhomie 

by Sumati Mehrishi - Feb 5, 2020 06:26 PM +05:30 IST
Delhi 2020: Why BJP’s Focus On Purvanchalis And Biharis Goes Beyond Nitish-Shah Bonhomie Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (L) with BJP Chief Amit Shah. (K Asif/India Today Group/Getty Images)
  • With Nitish Kumar and Amit Shah addressing a joint election rally in Burari on 2 February, it has become clear that Kumar, who was mainstream media’s favourite ‘Vikas Purush’ once, holds an important place and is a valuable voice and link in BJP’s connection with the Purvanchalis and Biharis.

The Bharatiya Janata Party is looking East to make a bigger impact in the Delhi chapter of 2020. Shaheen Bagh is figuring in BJP's speeches, but there are other factors that have prompted leaders from the BJP and the JD(U) from Purvanchal and Bihar to focus on the scene.

Let's look at these three crucial sets of two important aspects in the reclaimed Delhi-centered jugalbandi of the BJP and the stalwarts from Purvanchal and Bihar.

Set One: BJP and JD (U)

When it comes to the love between the BJP and the JD(U), a lot of water has flown by the ghats since 2014. Between the ups and downs, the JD(U)-headed by Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, has largely remained and returned to the bonhomie mode whenever Narendra Modi needed it, including in Parliament.

With Nitish Kumar and Amit Shah addressing a joint election rally in Burari on 2 February, it has become clear that Kumar, who was mainstream media’s favourite ‘Vikas Purush’ once, holds an important place and is a valuable voice and link in BJP's connection with the Purvanchalis and Biharis.

Kumar would mention during his speeches for Lok Sabha polls ‘seva mein yakeen’. He used the phrase to connect Centre and the state government in Bihar. The mood on ground in Delhi was in alignment with Kumar's stand.

Add to that, the voter's own stand on the issue of national security, which was fresh in public memory back then, and the corresponding reciprocation towards Narendra Modi. It was all in line for him and the NDA. The same audience is voting again.

Then, both PM Modi and and Bihar CM Kumar refer to their work as not work but ‘seva’ (Modi has given a title to self: Pradhan Sevak).

Whatever be Kumar's take on BJP's own take on several matters, his reputation as the sincere builder and a positive change maker has stayed protected within the NDA.

In the Burari rally, Kumar, as reported by sections of media, talked about development. Amit Shah, as evident in his speech, firmed it up further in his trademark aggression. Their convergence — going by their audience — requires them to keep focused on matters of development.

Set two: Burari and Sangam Vihar

Burari and Sangam Vihar constituencies are two in the 70 that the BJP has laid open for JD(U) to contest. Reasons: bonhomie and grip. Both are Purvanchali-dominated (Uttarakhandis are important residents). Geographically, they are in opposite directions, but BJP is trying to bring the two ends together to seal Delhi 2020.

The Burari rally saw Shah root for a candidate who represents the JD(U). His name is Shailendra Kumar. There is a man helping Kumar. He is Gopal Jha, who contested from Burari previously but lost.

Jha describes himself as ‘Sudama’ in a post on 28 January on Twitter.

बिना ताज के पूरे दिल्ली में अपना फर्ज निभाते हुए पिछले 28 वर्षों से बिना रुके और बिना झुके बिना थके 24 घंटे तैयार बेताज आपका अपना बुराड़ी का सुदामा भाई गोपाल झा.

Bihar is going to polls later this year. And there a need to find the echo of one contest in the other. BJP is placing its best foot forward in a sense of brotherhood.

Sangam Vihar can be defined as nothing less than a karmabhoomi, especially for South Delhi. Residents of this vast constituency provide for the hands, movement and wheels. Development is at the forefront of issues.

A Hindustan Times report quoted Kumar as saying: “In the last five years, Delhi has seen no development. Give us (BJP-led National Democratic Alliance) a chance. We are capable of transforming every assembly constituency into a model for the rest of India.”

Set three: Prashant Kishor and Pavan Verma

Burari rally did not feature CAA as a thing of vociferous speeches. The move could be a careful and measured one. Party strategist Prashant Kishor and former diplomat and leader Pavan Varma were expelled from the JD(U) recently. On the other hand, Varma has been vocal about Nitish Kumar's stand on CAA. Kumar's support to the BJP in Delhi has been an irritant. Probable advantage: BJP.

The opposite side. Former central minister Manoj Sinha (who lost Ghazipur 2019), too, has been actively participating to help BJP make wider inroads. There is his namesake. Manoj Tiwari, who has been the target of the opponent. North East Delhi — their main field.

Sinha has been connecting with different communities. Tiwari has been the target of the opponent. North East Delhi is their main field. Tiwari has been propelling road shows and dominating the microphone in pockets where his voice (at speaking and singing) would matter.

Health, Medicine, And A Controversy

These three are vital issues for migrants in Delhi. Parts of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal's speech recently emerged as the material for his main opponent. Here is what Delhi CM said. Kejriwal was referring to medical facilities in Delhi, which are also being used by people from the region.

Amit Shah seized it to attack Kejriwal in the Burari rally, saying that it had insulted Purvanchalis. He said that Delhi belonged to the Purvanchali and Bihar as much as Purvanchal and Bihar do. Shah said in his speech:

"Wo kehte hain ki bihari 500 rupiye ki ticket lekar aata hai aur paanch lakh ka ilaaj karke jata hai. Kya yeh kalpana hai aapki sarkar ki?"

He added, saying that the funds were not coming from Kejriwal's home.

Paanch lakh kya aapke ghar se lekar aaye hain? Yeh Bhartiya Janta Party ki NDA ki Narendra Modi ki sarkar ki yojana hai. Aapki chavanni (25 paise coin) bhi ismein nahin hai Kejriwal. Kyon kaahe ko apmaan karte ho bihar ke bhaiyon behenon ka, purvanchaliyon ka?"

Shah even mentioned how Gujarat cradles people from different regions. Nitish Kumar's presence almost added punch to Shah's power-worded delivery.

The Yamuna Factor

The rising pollution in Yamuna is part of BJP's attack on the ruling AAP. Yamuna has a huge cultural meaning to the Purvanchali and Bihari Ganga upaasak's religiosity. It plays a motherly role during the chhatth puja — which is observed largely by the Purvanchalis and Biharis. Parts of East Delhi turn festival and participant both. Pictures of toxic foam floating on the Yamuna during chhatth puja celebrations went viral. Shah, to sharpen his attack, mentioned Ganga's cleaning, Kumbh in Prayagraj and the work done by Yogi Adityanath and PM Modi team.

North East and South East Delhi are being looked at as BJP's own power axis to take on its main opponent. If Purvanchal and Bihar become factors in BJP's upswing in Delhi, BJP may, in modesty, call it "Yamuna ji's kripa".

Sumati Mehrishi is Senior Editor, Swarajya. She tweets at @sumati_mehrishi 

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