The growing population of Purvanchalis in Delhi and their increasing participation in the capital’s politics has meant an over 14-fold increase in the number of ghats for Chhath Puja devotees in Delhi.
In 2014, the number of such ghats in the city was 72. This year, 1,055 ghats have been set up across the city, including at India Gate, along the Yamuna and even in colony parks.
The two-day festival is considered among the most important for those from Bihar and parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh. According to rough estimates by political parties, the Purvanchali population in Delhi is close to 30%. Not all of them, however, are registered as voters in the capital.
According to sources, such was the focus to ensure facilities for Chhath that after residents of Rohini complained last week that nothing was being done in their area, arrangements were made by the office of the Chief Minister, and a small area was dug up to create an artificial water body overnight on Sunday.
The prayers require a water body and adequate area around it, and most water bodies are prepared artificially.
On Tuesday, leaders from across the political divide reached various ghats in the evening as prayers started. While Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari visited at least three ghats, the biggest push was seen from AAP leaders.
On Atishi’s schedule — the party’s Lok Sabha candidate from East Delhi — was a visit to 10 ghats, starting at 5 pm and ending at 10.30 pm. The in-charge of the Northeast Delhi constituency, Dilip Pandey, visited eight ghats, while south Delhi constituency in-charge Raghav Chadha visited nine spots. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia visited four ghats.
“Over the years, the population of Purvanchalis has grown in Delhi. Why should people coming from a particular region, be it Bihar or Kerala, not have the facilities to celebrate their festivals in the national capital? Earlier, people used to go back to their villages and towns to celebrate Chhath. With more facilities being provided in Delhi, they no longer feel the need. Delhi has to have a cosmopolitan nature,” Sisodia said. Over the past week, several posters wishing people on Chhath came up across the city.
Delhi BJP leaders, meanwhile, attacked AAP for focussing on Chhath only to secure a vote bank.
Delhi BJP general secretary Ravinder Gupta said, “We have been celebrating Chhath for ages, but it is AAP that is putting hoardings everywhere and politicising the festival for votes.”
Last week, the BJP-led municipal corporations in Delhi, which are cash-strapped, opened their coffers to prepare for Chhath Puja. While SDMC released Rs 41.60 lakh for providing facilities in its 104 wards, EDMC, which has taken several austerity measures this year, allocated Rs 10,000 each to the 51 ghats under its jurisdiction.
(With inputs from Abhinav Rajput)