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BW Businessworld

250 For BJP Is Possible

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At the beginning of the year, in an article for this magazine (BW | Businessworld issue dated 27 January 2014), I had expressed doubts about the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi securing 210 Lok Sabha seats in this national election. I concluded, “as of today, it isn’t obvious how the BJP on its own can win 210 seats” and argued that if it won less than 200, Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik or Jayalalithaa might end up calling the shots.

As I write this piece on 21 April, elections are, more or less, at the half-way mark. Five phases of polling are over covering 232 Lok Sabha seats, in which larger states such as Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala and Odisha are over with, as is the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Four more rounds of polls remain, covering 311 constituencies, many of which are in blockbuster states such as Uttar Pradesh (UP), Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and West Bengal. The last round of polling is on 12 May, covering 41 residual constituencies in UP, Bihar and West Bengal. The results will be announced on 16 May 2014.

Things can change. But, as of now, I need to admit that I was wrong in January 2014. It seems clear to me that the BJP is set to not only comfortably cross the 210 mark, but also take a realistic shot at around 245 to 250 Lok Sabha seats. Let me suggest why.

It is useful to start with two critical states: UP and Bihar. In the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had 51 seats in a united UP, including all five seats in what is today’s Uttarakhand. Disenchantment with the Samajwadi Party is at its peak; barring a few constituencies, the Indian National Congress is a non-entity in the state; and many would agree with me that the polarisation of voters according to religious lines is at least as pronounced in 2014 as it was in 1999. Therefore, much as some may consider the thought outrageous, I wouldn’t be surprised if the BJP won around 50 seats in UP.

On to Bihar. In 2009, the BJP won 12 seats out of 40, and the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), clinched 20. The JD(U) is in shambles, and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal will probably cut into a quarter of his seats. Bihar BJP’s Sushil Modi runs a tight ship. And the NaMo wave can help the BJP to claim 20 seats in this elections. Maybe even 25 with some extra luck. So, UP and Bihar could get the BJP 70 to 75 seats in the aggregate.

What about the BJP’s backyard, namely Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand? Gujarat has 26 seats, of which the BJP should secure 22. In Madhya Pradesh, it should win 24 out of the 29. Even if Sachin Pilot gives a stiff fight, the BJP should get 20 of the 25 seats in Rajasthan. And 9 out of 11 in Chhattisgarh plus 10 out of 14 in Jharkhand. That makes it a sub-total of 85 seats for the BJP.
 
The total now rises to 155 to 160 seats. Now for a few other states. One should expect the BJP to win 14 of the 28 seats in Karnataka; seven of the 10 seats in Haryana; five of seven seats in Delhi NCT; 20 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra; 10 out of 42 in Andhra Pradesh; and perhaps eight of the 21 seats in Odisha by eliminating the Congress and getting a few Biju Janata Dal seats as well. This sub-total is 64 seats.

Add the three sub-totals and you get 224 seats. With such tailwind, the BJP should also pick up bits and bobs everywhere bar the North-east. I expect it to gain another 26 seats across Uttarakhand, Himachal, Goa, Punjab, some of the Union territories and West Bengal.

This is only the BJP. And it definitely looks like a Modi sarkar. 

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 19-05-2014)