JUST roam around the city and its adjoining areas, you find many billboards of named like Metropolitan Hotel, Spa, etc. in Delhi, people talking about Delhi and proudly announcing it metropolitan, even its main rapid transit system is also ‘Delhi Metro’. Nowhere anyone claims, it’s a cosmopolitan, absorbing and accommodating different cultures. Really, there are different population pockets and each one of them is dominated by one culture or identity. So, people still fine with metropolitan identity, not cosmopolitan, dominated mainly by north Indians, Poorvanchali, Jat, Gurjar, Brahmin and Punjabi from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan.
In 2013, MCD election and Delhi University Student Union election have also shown the characteristics of region, caste and belongingness of State identity. The same primordial identities will dominate again on the large canvass of Delhi Assembly election on December 4. But the writer of the book, Changing Electoral Politics in Delhi has raised a doubt about this trend and thinks that caste is replaced by class in Delhi, especially when it comes to a voting behaviour. However, the reality is hard to be digested.
Ahead of Delhi Assembly election, the author presents the changing profile of Delhi voters and its impact on electoral politics. Under the seven chapters including the chapter on ‘The New Definition of Delhi’, he sees Delhi and its social cleavages based on migration which are mainly from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Since in these two states, caste is still most important factor in electoral politics, it is difficult for many to accept that these states’ people will prefer their political choice in Delhi only based on their economic condition and not on caste identity which is watertight at their home.
Class is not egalitarian but it causes divides though caste or community has become a symbol of identity to take own right in India. The migrant population carries all those characteristics of their own State and in these states, caste provides social basis of participation, stratification and distribution in the process of governance.
The author through his academic research, field work and HT-CSDS Delhi survey 2003 has shown very substantial figures and facts of changing demography and peoples’ opinion on many issues. However, voting preference and basis of voting appear to be largely inferred because classifying the class under the caste and, divisions of opinion of different castes on issues of Delhi is not so much suffice to say that voting pattern is changing from caste to class.
There are 70 Assembly constituencies and now more than one crore twenty lakh voters in 11, 763 polling booths. More than 16 lakh voters have been added from 2008 to 2013. In this changed demography coupled with some homogenous issues in distinct parts of Delhi, class has really become a factor because all slum people are facing the same civic problems which are different from the problems of posh areas. In this perspective, Sanjay Kumar announces, the voting behaviour in Delhi is a textbook illustration of class-based voting: the poorer the voter, the higher chances of voting for the Congress and vice versa for the BJP.
Sanjay Kumar has classified Delhi voters under three broad economic categories—the upper class, the middle class and the lower class. He writes, all voters belonging to one economic class do not necessarily vote for one particular party, but a broad trend can clearly be traced. So, really this is a trend which is bound to be reversed with the changing political situation, not only of Delhi but of entire country because Delhi is representing broadly the voice of all large northern Indian states. In Delhi, it has been seen that anti-incumbency factor against Central Government can also change the mood of the people as Delhi population is more vulnerable to the voice of media.
Under the chapter on migrants, the author has classified Assembly constituencies under dominance of migrants from other states. There are 16 constituencies dominated by migrants from Bihar and UP, 17 constituencies have sizable proportion of Punjab, 11 constituencies are dominated by Jats and Gujjars and 27 constituencies are mixed type. He shows that 22 per cent voters are Poorvanchali or migrants from Bihar and UP. After showing such well researched data, he elaborates how class has become more important factor in voting pattern.
However, it is also seen that people or migrants from different states have started the demands of political share through their own migrants’ community leaders’ position in the parties. Now migrants are identifying themselves under one community and where one State migrant are in majority, they prefer to the candidate of their own caste. Since people are coming to Delhi with their own language and culture and, so to say, with their own political identity, it is very hard to believe that their thinking will be morphed completely only based on economic condition.
The book, Changing Electoral Politics in Delhi with its facts and figures is very useful for those who think, Delhi is of someone; class but reality is, Delhi is of no one which is still to be explored. The reality check can be rightly seen on December 8 when Assembly election result will be out.