Keeping up with UP | The power of a North Indian migrant in Maharashtra - Hindustan Times

Keeping up with UP | The power of a North Indian migrant in Maharashtra

BySunita Aron
Apr 20, 2024 09:24 PM IST

Some migrants are upset with both the central and UP governments for failing to keep their much-touted promise of providing jobs under the Atmanirbhar scheme

Rajya Sabha member and former Uttar Pradesh deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma was appointed the BJP's election in-charge of Maharashtra at the end of March. Immediately after landing in Mumbai, he went on a tour of Pune, Bhiwandi, Nagpur, Amravati and Bhandara, focussing on the management of the polls, more than public meetings.

Some North Indian migrants are upset with both the central and the UP government for failing to keep their much-touted promise of providing them jobs under the Atmanirbhar scheme after Covid had hit them hard (Photo by Bachchan Kumar/ HT PHOTO) PREMIUM
Some North Indian migrants are upset with both the central and the UP government for failing to keep their much-touted promise of providing them jobs under the Atmanirbhar scheme after Covid had hit them hard (Photo by Bachchan Kumar/ HT PHOTO)

After his initial assessment of the poll scenario, he said, “There is only one poll issue — Narendra Modi. People want to give him a third term. Politically speaking, however, the opposition bloc is not only divided but also lacks coordination, whereas the BJP has a robust organisation and has also helped the fledgling Shiv Sena (Shinde group) in building its organisation.”

Interestingly, Sharma is also holding separate meetings with the North Indian population in every constituency. “They have been our supporters and I make it a point to meet them during my visits.”

The North Indian migrants have always played a pivotal role in Maharashtra elections because of their population, according to Sharma, ranging from one to five lakh in every constituency.

They were earlier supporters of the Congress as it provided them protection from forces that aggressively campaigned for “Mumbai for Marathi Manoos”. But after the BJP grew in strength, they too were split between the two North Indian parties – the Congress and the BJP.

However, as of now, some are upset with both the central and the UP government for failing to keep their much-touted promise of providing them jobs under the Atmanirbhar scheme that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched after Covid had hit them hard. They had walked miles and miles to reach home and had to return to Mumbai for want of work.

The North Indian migrants are also demanding representation in the government like they had in the past.

For instance, Kripa Shankar Singh from Jaunpur has been twice elected from two different constituencies in Mumbai – Vile Parle in 1999 and Kalina in 2009. He also became a minister in the Congress government led by Vilasrao Deshmukh in 2004. He quit the Congress in 2021 and joined the BJP. He is now contesting the ongoing Lok Sabha election from his home district Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh.

Sanjay Nirupam, former Congress MP, is from Bihar. He recently quit the party and is joining the Shinde group. Abu Asim Azmi is the SP MLA representing the Mankhurd Shivaji Nagar constituency. He hails from Azamgarh in UP.

Keen to expand the party’s base in the financial hub, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) national president Mayawati convened a meeting with the senior leaders of the Maharashtra unit in 2023 in which she had actually regretted the party’s failure to expand its network here.

She had said: “We should have become a political force by now in the karmabhoomi of BR Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram.”

Mayawati had earlier described Maharashtra as the “pilgrimage centre of the oppressed classes” at her Kolhapur rally in 2002. The cadres’ hopes had risen after the BSP won a majority on her own in Uttar Pradesh in the 2007 assembly elections, but Mayawati got bogged down in building parks and statues in the name of Dalit icons and failed to put up an impressive show in the 2009 Maharashtra assembly elections. She failed to open the party’s account while the SP won four seats. After a brief euphoria, Mayawati became politically redundant.

In 2024, when the political space is overcrowded with splinter groups of the Shiv Sena, NCP, the BSP is more or less invisible, though the party is contesting on a couple of seats

The SP has kept away from the fray.

As the BJP increases its focus on the North Indian population with both Singh and Nirupam on its side, the Congress appears to be less electorally strong as of now.

Sanjay Pandey, president of Maharashtra BJP’s North Indian Morcha, claimed that the days when the North Indians voted for the Congress are over. According to him, the migrants have one issue, which protection, and, which the Devendra Fadnavis government had provided successfully. According to him, they are working from state to the booth level to garner the support of the 1.20 crore voters from North India.

Sudhakar Singh Vishen of Rajput Sangathan echoed the same sentiments that are being heard in West UP, Gujarat and parts of Rajasthan. He said the Rajputs have adopted the “wait and watch” attitude as of now waiting for the BJP leadership to take a call on their demands which includes action against Gujarat leader Parshottam Rupala for his unwarranted statement against the Rajput community and more representation in legislative bodies.

While BJP has launched an aggressive campaign to rope in support of the Rajputs with UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath already addressing three rallies in Maharashtra in which he promoted his model of governance, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had also put up an impressive show on April 14.

Addressing a public rally in the Bhandara district in East Vidarbha, Rahul spoke about the caste census and economic survey to check the distribution of wealth. Mayawati also plans to visit Maharashtra soon.

Heading home

Many voters from U.P. and Bihar have booked tickets to go home and cast their vote; others who are voters in Maharashtra are being told to stay put or return as Holi celebrations are over. The BJP has asked its state-level leadership as well as candidates to get the voters back from their home states to Maharashtra for the polling.

In fact, the communication works in two ways.

The politicians keep all their communication channels open from Mumbai to Uttar Pradesh. Besides intense messaging, they also have their pens and postcards ready in support of their favourite party or politician.

There was a time when Ballia, the hometown of former prime minister Chandrashekhar, was famous for its “chitthi aayi hai aayi hai chitthi aayi” culture, as in every election, letters — and now e-mails — used to pour in from people settled abroad. Now, the entire eastern belt is experiencing an influx of supporters from Mumbai, besides the letters.

Naeem, a taxi driver from Pratapgarh, says, “I paid a bribe of 200 to get a railway ticket back home.” Naeem is not the only one. Those who can’t go home are planning to pen a letter or make a telephone call. Thus, it’s either vote or support.

Now with regional forces like the SP also having a sizeable support in Mumbai and its arch-rival, the BSP, too getting hordes of die-hard workers from here, no wonder the UP-Mumbai connect at the political level remains unbreakable despite the din for “Mumbai for Marathis” at the Shiv Sena-driven social level.

Sunita Aron is a consulting editor with the HT based in Lucknow. You can find her on X as @overto. The weekly column, Keeping up with UP tackles everything from politics to social and cultural mores in the country's most populous state. The views expressed are personal.


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