“Nitish ya Modi hamare liye kamayenge kya (Will Nitish or Modi earn on our behalf)?” said Dayashankar, explaining why he not go to Bihar to vote.
Dayashankar works on construction sites in Mumbai, having migrated in 2005. His home district, Purnea, votes on November 5. “We own a house and a farm in Bihar,” he said. “But here in Mumbai, I share a 10×18-sq-ft room with three others. This is because Bihar has no jobs to offer,” he said.
Pappu Kumar Yadav, 26, who rides an auto-rickshaw, will not travel home either. “I don’t want to waste time going back home to vote,” said Pappu, who has lived in Mumbai for 13 years.
Corporate executive Manish Jha, who relocated to Mumbai in 2008, said, “All this talk of special packages and politics over caste and reservation does not matter. Bihar needs jobs. Bihar needs investment,” he said.
Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam, who hails from Bihar and is one of the party’s campaigners, agreed that few from Mumbai will travel home. “A majority of the migrants from Bihar are engaged in daily wage jobs. We don’t feel many will go to Bihar to cast their vote,” he said.
The BJP knows it too but has been wooing the migrant population all the same. “While it’s true that not everyone goes home to vote, the breadwinners here can influence their families back home in some way or the other,” said BJP leader Amarjeet Mishra, who hails from northern India. Dayashankar said all in his family at home will vote, while Pappu said his family has always been with the Congress.
The BJP has been promising jobs and better living conditions. “Scores of Bihari migrants have to put up with deplorable living conditions in Mumbai. We are promising better living conditions and a job climate back home if elected,” said Phool Singh, who heads the BJP’s Bihar cell in Mumbai. He said the BJP has deployed workers across Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai to motivate people to go and vote. The LJP, meanwhile, has engaged workers across Maharashtra, said Ravi Garud, the LJP’s Mumbai chief.
The BJP has also tried to invoke Bihari pride. “Bihari Mumbaikar ki yahin pukar, Bihar main BJP sarkar,” Phool Singh recited a customised slogan. Mishra said, “Mumbai’s heart beats because of Biharis, yet they don’t get recognition and respect. Their hutments are still unauthorised, they have to fight for a decent livelihood.” The BJP is promising them recognition.
Manoj Tiwari, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and other BJP leaders addressed settlers from Bihar in Mumbai’s Goregaon last month.
Of the 15 lakh from Bihar who live in Maharashtra, around 12 lakh work in Mumbai, Thane, and Navi Mumbai. This makes them key to the Mumbai civic polls next year, and parties are set to woo them with chhath pujas on November 17. Sanjay Nirupam’s pandal on Juhu beach is an annual crowd-puller. For the BJP, Phool Singh said the BJP has plans a grand show, including Bhojpuri stars. “Even the Maharashtra CM is expected to attend,” he said.