New Delhi: Bhojpuri actor Manoj Tiwari was barely two years old in politics when he received a call from the BJPâs organisation general secretary Ram Lal on November 30, 2016. Around 8:45 am, Tiwari was asked to lead Delhi unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
A superstar in Bhojpuri cinema, Tiwari first tried his luck in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls when he fought from Gorakhpur on a Samajwadi Party ticket. He lost that election to Yogi Adityanath, who would one day become his colleague.
Tiwari joined the BJP few months before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and was a stranger to Delhi politics when his candidature from North-East Delhi was announced. All seven BJP candidates in Delhi won the election.
A few months later, BJP was in for a rude shock in Delhi when it was reduced to 3 out of 70 seats by Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party in the 2015 Assembly polls.
The phone call in November 2016 meant the party was entrusting Tiwari with a huge responsibility to save its honour in the upcoming municipal elections, six months down the line.
Tiwari may have been an outsider for some in Delhi, but his elevation carried a clear message â Purvanchalis, migrants from eastern UP and Bihar, would no longer be ignored in the national capital. This was not an emotional call but based on pure arithmetic â Purvanchlis form 32% of Delhiâs electorate.
âThe decision to project Tiwari against the wishes of some local leaders was Shahâs call. He wanted to send the message that Poorvanchalis have equal right over the partyâs Delhi unit,â said a close aide of BJP President Amit Shah. Sources say his ability to speak out against some of the partyâs decisions was seen as a sign of courage. Tiwari was the only BJP MP to publically criticize elevation of Kiran Bedi as the BJPâs chief ministerial candidate in 2015. He was vindicated when the BJP was reduced to 3 out of 70 seats.
While the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also has senior Purvanchali leaders like Kapil Mishra and Gopal Rai, the MCD victory has cemented Tiwariâs image as the most popular Purvanchali in Delhi.
Describing Tiwariâs clout among Purvanchalis, a senior Delhi BJP leader said, âCongress aur AAP ke jo Purvanchali neta hain, unki biwiyan bhi Manoj Tiwari ke naam pe BJP ko vote dengi. Aisi lokpriyata hai unki. (The wives of Congress and AAPâs Purvanchali leaders will also vote for Manoj Tiwari. Such is his popularity)â
Tiwari became a household name in Bihar and Eastern UP as a Bhojpuri singer and actor. For migrants in Delhi, Tiwari, an outsider just like them, is a relatable figure. âHe speaks our language and has had similar experiences like us. Thatâs why we voted for him,â said Manoj Pandey, a migrant from Eastern UPâs Balia.
During the course of the MCD campaign, Tiwari was accompanied by Ravi Kishan, arguably the biggest Bhojpuri star after Tiwari himself. Together, the duo pulled huge crowds to BJP rallies.
It is often said of BJP President Amit Shah that no election is too small for him. Delhiâs civic body polls were certainly no exception. According to BJP sources, Shah had constituted a committee last year to âauditâ the functioning of the BJP-ruled MCD. BJP National General Secretary Bhupendra Yadav, who was heading that committee, had recommended no sitting councillor should be given a ticket to beat anti-incumbency. Both Tiwari and Shah agreed to this.
Tiwari was then tasked with accommodating the outgoing councillors in the party organisation to prevent any rebellion. Unlike the Congress, which saw open rebellion within its ranks, the BJP kept its flock together.