Chandrani Banerjee has studied at the Columbia Journalism School, and covered the US elections, 2016. She has also filed an experience report for UN office of Drug and Crime about the Indian migrant workers, and worked with Outlook
Manoj Tiwari as a singer is a raging fire among the Purvanchali community, but his role as a Member of Parliament looks like doused embers.
The flamboyant MP from North East Delhi constituency seat made waves when he won the seat by 1,44,084 votes. Tiwari got 5,96,125 votes, while his nearest competitor, Aam Admi Party’s candidate Prof Anand Kumar secured 4,52,041 votes and lost. But having done so, most often the star remains so far away from the people that he merely twinkles from up there!
Born on February 1, 1973, in Atarwalia, a small village in Kaimur district of Bihar, Tiwari is one of the six children of his parents. Prior to entering Bhojpuri cinema, he had spent ten years as a singer. His journey as an actor began in 2003, with a role in the film ‘Sasura Bada Paise Wala,’ followed by successful films like ‘Daroga Babu I Love You’, ‘Bandhan Toote Na’, etc. In 2009, Tiwari contested the 15th Lok Sabha elections as a candidate for the Samajwadi Party from the Gorakhpur constituency, but lost to Yogi Adityanath of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Five years later, Tiwari ditched his party and thought it wiser to join the same BJP that had defeated him.
Tiwari throws fitness challenge on social media to Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan , which earns him applause among the youth of his constituency. But how fitting has he been as an MP?
Tiwari’s claim is that he had worked to build three Kendriya Vidyalayas in North East Delhi, which no one had thought of initiating despite being in power for decades. His claim also includes two flyovers, easing troubles for 60 lakh commuters for a hassle-free travel. On his initiative to keep the electorate fit, he points out to the open air gym in his constituency another major contribution for the voters, he claims.
He boasts of his contribution as an MP and shares the document of his expenditure from the MPLAD funds and other funds received. On the face of it, the claims appear true. But his rival, Congress leader and former MP from the same North East Delhi, Jai Prakash Agarwal, pooh-poohs these: “What? He says that he initiated the Kendriya Vidyalayas for North-East Delhi? I am not going to say anything but documents and dates would explain where the gap between the claim and reality is.” The supporting documents that the former MP has shared show clearly that there is indeed a gap. The clearance for the Kendriya Vidyalayas had been done in March 2014, while Agarwal was the sitting MP. Manoj Tiwari was elected only in May 2014. The sanctions for the flyovers have also just been done in 2018. Talking to Parliamentarian, Tiwari says: “Let my work speak for me. I don’t think I need to project anything falsely. The work that I have done will benefit lakhs of commuters and they will remember me and that is what is required. I don’t want to reply to what everyone assumes but I think the work will put them in place”. The document supporting his claims shared by Tiwari with Parliamentarian shows that he has spent Rs 500 crore so far from his MPLAD funds and other funds received. A random visit to North-East Delhi, though, will clarify the picture that it is not easy to access the local MP. It is believed that only after BJP Party President Amit Shah expressed his unhappiness about the absence of many top BJP leaders in their constituencies (read Manoj Tiwari) and ordered them to work in their areas or face the consequences that he is now a bit more accessible and public queries are getting heard. The core issue of security for women still is a big one. And his claims to getting the two flyovers done at Shastri Park and Khajuri are debunked by Agarwal, who says the works had been initiated by him in his time as MP. Clearly, Tiwari has learnt his Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cheap trick of claiming all of the previous regime’s projects as his by renaming them. Agarwal laughingly says, “As Member of Parliament he claims he has fought battles to improve the area. Where did he take up the issue that highways need to be linked? Parliament is the only place where politicians fight the battle to improve their constituencies. I challenge that looking at the debates, there is no evidence he has once taken up issues for North East Delhi.” Agarwal says: “Bring out the Lok Sabha debates to know the whole truth. The debates tell a different story.” And Agarwal is right. (See Box: In Parliament)
Unsavoury controversies have also dogged Tiwari from the beginning. In March 2018, the BJP MP received a lot of flak on Twitter for speaking rudely with a woman during a function. A video has emerged where Manoj Tiwari is seen admonishing a woman, who requested him to sing a couple of lines. Tiwari is seen in the video blasting her, asking her how she dare ask him to sing. “Is this the way to speak to an MP?” he thunders. Tiwari then continues his rant and asks the lady, who is reportedly a teacher, to get off the stage. He also asks officers sitting on the dais to take action against the woman. This is strange, because Manoj Tiwari, even after becoming an MP, has continued to sing in different functions. In fact, he charges hefty fees for singing and was admonished for doing so even for a programme of his own party. So it looked a tad hypocritical and unfair that the MP attacked the teacher for asking him to sing. Twitter followers were critical of him and expressed it. (See Box: Tweeted Out.) The controversy continued, as Tiwari in a film promotional event at Varanasi went down on his knees to sing a Bhojpuri song for the heroine of the film. The Twitterati promptly reminded him of his rude denial to a respected teacher who had politely requested him to sing two lines of a Bhojpuri song. In January this year there was another controversy when the sealing drive was going on. Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari and other party leaders stormed out of a meeting with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal over the issue of sealing, alleging “misbehaviour” by AAP MLAs and “anti-social elements” present there, a charge denied by the AAP. Tiwari alleged that woman mayors of the BJP-ruled North and East MCD Preety Agarwal and Neema Bhagat were also “attacked” at the Chief Minister’s residence and accused the AAP government of acting like “urban naxalites”. Delhi BJP general secretary Ravinder Gupta even filed a police complaint against some AAP MLAs, accusing them of attacking his party leaders. In fact, Tiwari seemed to have landed in controversies almost immediately after becoming an MP. On the second day of assuming office as an MP, on May 20, 2014, Tiwari’s tweet cautioned men from Bihar to be wary of Delhi women. Tiwari, however, claimed that he joined the micro-blogging site only in 2015. He also claimed that there are many fake accounts opened in his name and this one is not his. But AAP trolled Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari over his “anti-women” tweet, which the latter has denied having posted. A day after the Northeast Delhi MP assumed office, the AAP’s Delhi unit reposted an over two-and-a-half-year-old tweet from an unverified Twitter handle and demanded an apology from the BJP national president Amit Shah for appointing Tiwari as the new Delhi BJP chief. “BJP President @AmitShah must apologise for appointing Manoj Tiwari (who has insulted the women of Delhi in the past) as Delhi BJP president,” the AAP said on Twitter. Parliamentarian learns from reliable sources that Shah and Modi are now actually finding him too much of a bother, creating factional feuds within the party, and will possibly shift him out to a Bihar constituency in 2019.
North East Delhi comprises of Burari, Timarpur, Seemapuri, Rohtas Nagar, Seelampur Ghonda, Babarpur, Gokulpur, Mustafabad, and Karawal Nagar. Tiwari, a popular Purvanchali, represents Northeast Delhi constituency, was seen as a bait to woo Purvanchali voters in Delhi by the BJP. These people from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar jointly comprise 35 per cent of the electorate in the Capital and have influence in over 20-25 assembly seats. They had traditionally been Congress voters but later favoured the BJP. But in the Lok Sabha and assembly elections, the Purvanchalis voted en masse for the AAP. Tiwari has been particularly regular in the Parliament, as statistics show. The constituency residents, however, have a different story to tell for themselves. Talking to Parliamentarian, Kamlesh Bharti, who works for women’s welfare in the area since 1997, says: “I have only received assurances from Mr Tiwari. I met him twice and he assured the situation will change. But nothing has changed so far. The biggest problem in North East Delhi is security of women. We have taken this up with him several times, but nothing much could be achieved. Child labour was also rampant in this area and nothing has changed. There are too many problems, so how could we name a few? And the MP only assured so far that situation would change and the elections are already due. So, we are merely expecting some more assurances.” Sadhna Kumari, who works as an assistant in a boutique, and is herself from Bihar, says: “Ummeed to thee ki kuch badlega kyonki vo toh gaon ki haalat bhi jaante hai… hamari hi bhasha bolte hai phir bhi kuch khas nahin hua” (I thought things would change since he knows the reality and the state of affairs back home. But there is nothing much that has changed so far.) Parliamentarian tried to access Tiwari to get his version of things. However, it was all in vain. Tiwari hardly picks up a call. He responds to messages rarely. Although he responded to the request of the reporter for an interview, but he never actually gave one. To be honest, residents have similar views about the AAP representative in the area. People, however, express a bit of satisfaction with the responses of the Congress representative in the area.