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Delhi-7: Why the Cosmopolitan Capital is Melting Pot of Indian Elections

Employment was the motivating factor for 51 per cent of migrants living in Delhi for 6-10 years. Among migrants who have been in the city for more than 10 years, 60 per cent migrated for jobs.


Updated:May 13, 2019, 6:27 PM IST
Delhi-7: Why the Cosmopolitan Capital is Melting Pot of Indian Elections
Image for representation. (PTI)

Nearly 40 per cent of Delhiites or a staggering eight million are migrants. The 2017-2018 Economic Survey of Delhi estimates that 1, 17,000 people migrate to the city every year from various parts of India, with UP and Bihar being the top two contributors.

According to Census 1991, almost 50 per cent or one in every two migrants came to Delhi from Uttar Pradesh. This figure was at 46 per cent in 2013, as per that year’s Delhi Human Development Survey. The percentage of migrants from Bihar stood at 11 per cent and 14 per cent in 1991 and 2001, respectively. This number saw a sharp increase to 31 per cent in 2013.

Data also suggests that over the years, employment has been the major reason why people migrate to Delhi, with one in every two people migrating in search of jobs. Among migrants who have been in Delhi for more than 10 years, 60 per cent migrated for jobs. Employment was the motivating factor for 51 per cent of migrants living in the city for 6-10 years. The figure was 42% for those living in Delhi for 2-5 years and 32% for those living here since 1 year. These findings have been documented in the Perceptions Survey, Human Development Report, 2013.

This rapid migration has not only changed the social profile of the city, but has also marked a significant shift in Delhi’s electoral politics, where migrants rely on support from relatives, friends and fellow migrants for accommodation, employment and to negotiate wages. Through these interactions, migrants also build political connections and other elements of ‘identity’, which contributes to the political mobilisation of migrants.

In the middle of this migration pie lies the core voter bloc — the Purvanchalis. The estimated 40 lakh Purvanchalis are people from the eastern parts such as Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, who make up at least a quarter of Delhi’s population.

According to the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), voters from Bihar and eastern UP have always remained a decisive force in Delhi’s electoral politics.

The election outcome in at least 20 Assembly segments of Delhi have been decided by these Purvanchali voters, a CSDS survey says. As many as 13 Purvanchali candidates in AAP had registered record victories when the party swept the 2015 polls with a historic mandate of 67/70. Vying for a piece of the Purvanchali pie, the BJP made Bhojpuri actor-turned-politician Manoj Tiwari its candidate from North East Delhi. Tiwari is pitted against former CM and Delhi Congress chief Sheila Dikshit and former Delhi AAP convener Dilip Pandey. Tiwari won the constituency in 2014 by defeating AAP’s Anand Kumar with a margin of 1.5 lakh votes.

The other prominent voting blocs in Delhi are Jats, Punjabi Khatris, Dalits and Gujjars.

The Gujjars aren’t as dominant a political force in Delhi as they are in Rajasthan and other states, but they play an important role in the city’s politics and form about 6 per cent of the electorate. A sizeable number of Gujjar voters reside in trans-Yamuna localities such as Mandwali, Ghonda, Yamuna Vihar and Karawal Nagar. Gujjar voters also play an important role in the assembly segment of North-West Delhi in areas like Badali, Matiala, Bijwasan and Najafgarh. Over the years, nearly 70 per cent of Gujjar voters —most of who migrated from Haryana — have voted for the Congress.

Similarly, the Punjabi Khatri community in Delhi, once represented by BJP stalwart Madan Lal Khurana, has always been the core constituency of the saffron party in Delhi. Like Brahmins, they also have a sizable presence in Delhi, constituting 10 per cent of Delhi’s electorate. Most of these voters migrated either from Punjab and Haryana or moved to India during Partition.

Sohail Hashmi, a leading historian, believes this discourse of migration is not unique to Delhi. “Cities all over the world are made by migrants,” he says. “Migrants are not one uniform category. They are as diverse as those who claim to be natives.”

Hashmi believes that in a democratic system, the political leadership reflects the diversity in the population. “The leadership of the Congress or the Jan Sangh was in the hands of Punjabi migrants like Vijaykumar Malhotra, Madanlal Khurana and HKL Bhagat. Now we have Purvanchalis in the political leadership like Mahabal Mishra and Manoj Tiwari,” he adds.

This migration, however, cuts across classes in Delhi, more or less bypassing caste. That’s why, perhaps, class is the engine that drives voter preference in Delhi.

Hilal Ahmed, associate fellow at CSDS, also believes that elections in Delhi are not entirely about caste. “Since 1990, elections in Delhi are all about class and migration. Sheila Dikshit won three elections in Delhi primarily because she got the support of the huge number of migrants,” notes Ahmed.

In Delhi politics, aspirations of people from different economic backgrounds have also created political fault lines that have shaped the capital’s electoral history. With none of Delhi’s seven Lok Sabha constituencies having a homogenous caste or class composition because of migration, the capital has a history of distinct voting patterns.

The cosmopolitan nature of Delhi poses a challenge for parties that are used to slicing and dicing their politics on the basis of caste. Politics does not work the same way in Delhi.

West Delhi

Incumbent: Pravesh Sahib Singh Verma (BJP)

Prominent candidates: Pravesh Sahib Singh Verma (BJP), Mahabal Mishra (INC), Balbir Singh Jakhar (AAP)

The West Delhi constituency is dominated by Punjabi Sikh and Jat communities and also has a sizeable Purvanchali community. Both AAP and BJP candidates here belong to the Jat community.

Majority of the voters in the constituency migrated from UP and Bihar, but community arithmetic may not play a major role in the urban segments of the constituency. It may, however, have an impact in rural areas like Najafgarh and Madipur, helping Congress’ Mahabal Mishra, a Purvanchali himself.

After the delimitation of parliamentary constituencies in 2008, West Delhi was constituted with 10 Assembly segments. While neighbourhoods such as Dwarka, Janakpuri and Rajouri Garden are considered affluent and middle class, areas such as Hari Nagar and Matiala are home to migrants and working-class families who live in unauthorised colonies. Manipur and Najafgarh add rural flavour to the constituency.

The battle for West Delhi might very well be a tough one even though Balbir Singh Jakhar, a fresh face in AAP, will go up against two seasoned politicians. The AAP is banking on the Jat voting bloc.

Parvesh Verma’s father Sahib Singh was the chief minister of Delhi from 1996-1998. A Jat leader from Delhi dehat, he served as a union minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Sahib Singh died in 2007 and that’s when his son took over his legacy and won the Assembly elections from Mehrauli in 2013.

He also wrested the West Delhi Lok Sabha seat from Mishra in 2014.

The Congress had made a clean sweep in the constituency when its candidate Mishra won the seat in 2009 with support from Purvanchalis as well as Sikh and Punjabi voters. However, in the 2014 elections, the situation changed when AAP’s entry made it a triangular contest. AAP candidate Jarnail Singh took the second spot, while the Congress was relegated to the third position. The BJP won the seat as its Jat candidate appealed to Sikh and Punjabi voters.

South Delhi

Incumbent: Ramesh Bidhuri (BJP)

Prominent candidates: Ramesh Bidhuri (BJP), Vijender (INC), Raghav Chadha (AAP)

The South Delhi constituency largely comprises urban villages and unauthorised colonies, and is set to witness a three-cornered fight between the BJP, Congress and AAP. Purvanchalis, Jats and Gujjars constitute nearly 30 per cent of the voters in South Delhi. Come May 12, shortage of drinking water and lack of sanitation facilities will be the dominant concerns.

Bidhuri defeated AAP’s Devinder Sehrawat in the 2014 polls here by 1.07 lakh votes. In 2009, the BJP candidate could secure only 36.52 per cent votes and lost the elections to Congress’ Ramesh Kumar who received 49.27 per cent votes.

The Congress, which failed to win a single Delhi seat in 2014, is hoping for a comeback with its candidate and Olympic boxer Vijender Singh who is making his electoral debut.

Vijender belongs to the Jat community while Bidhuri is from the Gujjar community.

Chandni Chowk

Incumbent: Harsh Vardhan (BJP)

Prominent candidates: Harsh Vardhan (BJP), Jai Prakash Agarwal (INC) and Pankaj Kumar Gupta (AAP)

Till 2008, Chandni Chowk used to be the smallest parliamentary constituency in the country in terms of area. Today, the walled city comprises 30 per cent of the entire constituency. Planned areas such as Civil Lines, Delhi University and government colonies in Timarpur make up 25 per cent. Unauthorised colonies like Adarsh Nagar and Jahangirpuri and slum clusters such as Shakur Basti and Inderlok account for 25-30 per cent of the area.

Merchants and businessmen constitute almost 18 per cent of the population in Chandni Chowk. The constituency also has a sizeable Muslim population, mostly concentrated in the Old City. And in this cramped constituency, civic issues have always been the burning motivation for voters.

Most of the people News18.com spoken to allude to an element of anti-incumbency against the sitting MP.

While traders’ woes dominate the discussion, affordable housing, parking and jobs are key for residential areas in other parts of the Chandni Chowk constituency such as Model Town, Pitampura, Mukherjee Nagar and Shalimar Bagh. In Adarsh Nagar, Jahangirpuri and Shakur Basti, mainly comprising unauthorised colonies and slum clusters, basic facilities such as piped water supply, sewerage and proper roads remain key issues.

In stark contrast to Chandni Chowk and Old Delhi areas, other parts of the constituency have a different story to tell. And that’s where the issue of migration comes into play.

Due to limited exposure to news channels, many do not know about the surgical strike or the Balakot strike or even the numerous central government schemes. And barely a handful have access to WhatsApp. But they are aware of demonetisation.

North East Delhi

Incumbent: Manoj Tiwari (BJP)

Prominent candidates: Manoj Tiwari (BJP), Sheila Dikshit (INC) and Dilip Pandey (AAP)

The entire spectrum of caste equations, unauthorised colonies and migrant population will remain in focus in this constituency from where political heavyweights will try their luck on May 12. The constituency has a considerable concentration of Purvanchalis and Muslims, and both these groups are set to play a decisive role.

According to the 2011 Census, North East Delhi is the most populous district in the capital. Today, it has the highest population density in Delhi — 36,155 persons per square km, a classic example of the population boom due to migrants.

The seat also has close to 22 per cent Muslim population. Majority of them are concentrated in five assembly constituencies, including Ghonda, Seelampur, Mustafabad and Babarpur. According to various surveys, Congress’ crore vote bloc in this constituency were Muslims who have now shifted to the AAP. In 2015, the party won nine of 10 assembly segments here, with many poll pundits and surveys claiming en masse vote Muslim vote transfer from the Congress to AAP.

A section of the electorate in the constituency appreciates AAP government's work in education and health sectors.

Purvanchalis, however, remain the largest chunk of the population in the constituency at 30 per cent. Tiwari, a Purvanchali himself, won the seat in 2014. In the last general elections, Tiwari got around 6 lakh votes, defeating AAP's Anand Sharma who got around 4.5 lakh votes. This time, too, Tiwari is in the fray. Over the years, the community has gained considerable political clout with all major contenders trying to woo them.

The seat also has a sizeable chunk of Dalits, Brahmins and Vaishyas in areas like Yamuna Vihar, Dilshad Garden and Timarpur.

With the Congress fielding Sheila Dikshit, who ruled Delhi for 15 years till 2013, against Manoj Tiwari and with Dilip Pandey making a debut, the contest is a tri-polar one. A rally for Dikshit by Congress leader and star campaigner Priyanka Gandhi here has added to the poll heat.

New Delhi

Incumbent: Meenakashi Lekhi (BJP)

Prominent candidates: Meenakashi Lekhi (BJP), Ajay Maken (INC) and Brijesh Goyal (AAP)

New Delhi is home to some of the city’s busiest and famous markets such as Connaught Place, Lajpat Nagar, Sarojini Nagar, Defence Colony, Khan Market, South Extension, Green Park and Hauz Khas. After delimitation in 2008, a big chunk of south Delhi was merged into this seat which gave it a sizeable number of traders. Karol Bagh, a reserved (SC) seat, was also merged with New Delhi.

In the 2014 elections, the seat was bagged by BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi who got around 4.5 lakh votes while Ashish Khetan from AAP got 2.90 lakh votes. Congress leader Ajay Maken stood third with 1.82 lakh votes. In the 2009 and 2004 elections, when the Congress-led UPA formed the government at the Centre, New Delhi voted for Maken.

The constituency constitutes 10 assembly segments, all of which are ruled by AAP and will now see a triangular contest between BJP, AAP and the Congress.

The high-profile seat which came into existence in 1951 was represented by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and BJP veteran LK Advani between 1977 and 1991. It is also home to some of the most affluent residential areas and trading hubs.

Anger among traders over the Supreme Court-monitored sealing drive is the main talking point here. Around 10,000 properties were sealed across the national capital over misuse of land, including conversion of residential units into commercial ones, non-payment of conversion charges and increased pollution emissions since December 2017.

Community representation, however, does not bother the Punjabi-Sindhi population that remains in majority in the constituency. In the past, they elected Advani over Bollywood star Rajesh Khanna.

The issue of sealing, however, dominates the poll narrative here. “If being in Delhi — the closest to the government elected — they could do this to us, we can only imagine how they must be acting in Kashmir,” a resident said about the sealing issue in the constituency.

North West Delhi

Incumbent: Udit Raj (BJP)

Prominent candidates: Hans Raj Hans (BJP), Rajesh Lilothia (INC) and Gugan Singh (AAP)

Since the delimitation exercise of 2008, North West became a seat reserved for SCs. The constituency largely comprises rural belts where locals rely on traditional and dairy farming. With the largest number of voters at 23,78,984, the constituency comprises 10 assembly segments.

Migrant population, mostly rickshaw-pullers and industrial workers, has grown in the last few years in the constituency.

While sanitation, lack of employment options, unauthorised colonies, law and order problems are some of the issues plaguing the constituency, the fervour of nationalism among most of the voters could mean advantage BJP.

In the 2014 elections, Udit Raj had won the seat with a margin of 1,06,802 votes against AAP’s Rakhi Birla. Congress leader Krishna Tirath was pushed to the third spot with just 1,57,468 votes.

Most of the North West constituency is dominated by the Jat community. Attached to Haryana, most habitants of the area are Haryanvi Jats. The constituency also has a sizeable SC population. Much of the constituency has a rural character with thousands of migrant workers living in unauthorised colonies and slum clusters spread across Mangolpuri, Sultanpuri, Sultanpur Majra. While Jats form a large vote bank, the middle and upper-middle classes have presence in areas like Rohini.

East Delhi

Incumbent: Mahesh Girri (BJP)

Prominent candidates: Gautam Gambhir (BJP), Arvinder Singh Lovely (INC) and Atishi (AAP)

The issues of this constituency, often referred to as Jamnapaar, are as varied as their income, status of living and the demography of this almost urbanised parliamentary constituency with a mix of upscale, middle class and low-profile neighbourhoods.

On the one hand, East Delhi has upmarket residential colonies such as Nizamuddin East, New Friends Colony, Vivek Vihar and Preet Vihar. On the other hand, the unauthorised resettlement areas and slum clusters such as Trilokpuri, Kalyanpuri, Ghondli, Khichripur, Shaheen Bagh and Okhla are inhabited by migrant population. The constituency also has a sizable Muslim population, most of who are migrants from Uttar Pradesh.

Post the 2008 delimitation, Congress and BJP have won this seat once each. In 2014, the three-cornered contest was won by BJP’s Maheish Girri, defeating AAP’s Rajmohan Gandhi by over 1.9 lakh votes.

Though the 2010 Commonwealth Games brought massive development to East Delhi, the residents still feel that development never fully reached their constituency.

Congested lanes and open drains welcome visitors to one of Delhi’s biggest wholesale garment markets -- Gandhi Nagar. The people here are mainly from the trading class, and despite personal political leanings, issues like GST and demonetisation resonate among most of the shop owners.

In Muslim-dominated Jamia Nagar, part of the Okhla assembly constituency with around 3.6 lakh voters of whom around 2 lakh are Muslim, the AAP is counting on the support from the community.

But many people in the constituency who support AAP are worried that there is likely to be a split in the non-BJP votes as Congress and AAP are likely to get the support from Muslims and people see the Congress, in addition to AAP, as an alternative to BJP. This, many believe, will help the BJP.

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