As you approach the Bhati Mines locality in south Delhi, it looks like a mini fair is on. Peanut and omelette sellers are doing brisk business. Children run around, pamphlets in hand, bumping into adults every now and then. Shopkeepers stand outside their shops, taking in the spectacle, seemingly pleased by the blip in the monotony of their lives. A group of labourers, mud-caked spades resting on their shoulders, has stopped to listen. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which formed the government in Delhi in 2015, winning 67 of the 70 seats in the assembly, has organised a jan samwaad (public meeting) in which a DJ plays music during intervals between speeches. This meeting is one of roughly 300 organised under the ‘Aapan Purvanchal’ programme in a bid to reach out to the Purvanchalis—people from eastern UP and parts of Bihar—a few months ahead of assembly elections.
The Purvanchalis comprise an estimated 40 lakh of the 1.4 crore voters in the national capital. “Thirteen of our MLAs in Delhi are purvanchalis,” Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh, who is from Sultanpur in eastern UP and is in-charge of Aapan Purvanchal, tells a gathering of about 200 people. “We made 1,172 ghats for Chhath Puja. Nobody has given Purvanchalis the kind of respect that (Arvind) Kejriwal ji has given.” In the crowd, 52-year-old Birbal, who runs a mobile phone repairing shop, says, “The government has done work, but it’s not ‘solid’. You can see the lights, CCTV and new roads, but little has changed in the lanes.” Another resident disagrees, pointing out that AAP’s efforts have led to the locality’s inclusion in the list of regularised colonies.