BJP’s real election begins now

The real election for Modi, the BJP and the Sangh Parivaar is only just beginning. They have to fire on all cylinders to ensure that the 2014 majority is repeated. Even a small dip in the final four phases starting Monday could doom them to dependence on new and fickle allies, each with an agenda of their own. Of the 195 seats in the Hindi-speaking belt from Punjab and Rajasthan to Bihar and Jharkhand, the BJP and its allies held 177 of them, a mind-boggling strike rate of 90%. This is the citadel that the BJP has to defend to repeat the 2014 sort of result. It includes Rajasthan where they scored all 25 seats, and Madhya Pradesh where they got 27 of 29 seats.

These are states where the BJP surrendered control in the December assembly elections ( along with Chhattisgarh) and where a boomerang would also give it the helpful advantage of being able to destabilise the Congress governments in the states. In Bihar, what's left to poll is all BJP+ territory (25 out 26 seats that poll in the four last phases). With Nitish Kumar now back in their camp, it would be foolhardy to expect them to lose much ground here.

The key battle of course will be fought in Central and Eastern UP, where the BJP+ in 2014 swept 50 of the 54 seats but faces the challenge of the BSP-SP alliance and, separately, the Congress in an area where the opposition parties are stronger. Eastern UP is also less likely to be as influenced by the emphasis on nationalism and defence of Bharat as the western part of the state. Here, where development has taken a backseat, local issues and caste equations may be more important than campaign calls to bring back Modi-ji. In fact, this is where the Modi aura will face its severest test.

This, the second part of the election, also throws in two states where the BJP has been desperate to make inroads, and perhaps make up for losses it may face in the heartland: Orissa and the formidable West Bengal. They have 63 seats between them, 25 of which have already voted. The BJP just has 2 of these (of the ones that have voted in the first 3 phases) so Orissa and West Bengal have been targeted heavily by Modi and Amit Shah for potential big gains.

The Modi play in these states is obvious from the number of rallies he has held there: in Orissa there were six in the first three phases for 15 seats and an additional two for the last in Phase 4. Similarly, as the table below shows, he has been to West Bengal four times when only 10 seats are at stake. Compare this with his two rallies each in Kerala ( 20 seats) and Andhra ( 25 seats) where the BJP does not see much traction. In fact, these two sates are getting almost as much attention as the big BJP strongholds of Gujarat and Maharashtra.

The distribution or phases of voting has allowed the BJP to concentrate on states and parts of states ( UP Bihar and Maharashtra) where it was probably seen to be facing strong opposition and ignore ones that it had little interest in. So, in Karnataka, where the JDS-Congress are combined, the BJP had 17 seats at stake and Modi campaigned heavily. Similarly, Gujarat, which had seen a resurgent Congress two years ago in the assembly elections, and this was a state that gave the BJP 26/26 in 2014; he needed to rouse Gujaratis to support a Gujarati PM.

 Same for Chhattisgarh, another state that slipped into the Congress' hand, and needed to be recaptured. This final three weeks of campaigning during the hottest part of the year is going to determine the fate of India for the five years. A small slip of 10% in the last last four phases would only cost the BJP 17 seats and make little difference, but 30% down (51+ seats loss) would ensure the BJP would not have a majority of any kind. And we would be in open season. Source: NDTV