Firmly entrenched in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the BJP is looking at another set of three states that it believes holds the key to realising its Lok Sabha hopes for 2014.
Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka are make or break for our 2014 dreams, stressed a BJP functionary considered close to prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, speaking to The Indian Express days after the party won the assembly elections in the first three states.
Not among the big targets is Bihar, which has 40 Lok Sabha seats and saw a bitter parting of ways with the JD(U). Repeating or marginally bettering our tally without JD(U) support will be good enough, while larger gains will be a bonus, said the party leader. The BJP holds 12 seats out of the 15 it contested while in the alliance.
In the states won, the BJP is banking on recent trends that have seen the party winning assembly polls frequently bagging most of that states Lok Sabha seats, too. It is confident the leadership of Raman Singh, Shivraj Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje will take the burden off the central leadership.
These three states account for only 65 Lok Sabha seats while UP, Maharashtra and Karnataka have 156. The BJP faces a Congress that has been holding its ground in Maharashtra and Karnataka and gained some in Uttar Pradesh in the last Lok Sabha polls.
It is the obvious focus given its 80 seats. The BJPs first stint at power in New Delhi in 1996 had hinged on a robust performance in this state, though from 57 seats in 1998 (undivided UP) it slipped to 29 in 1999 following a rebellion by Kalyan Singh who has since merged his party into the BJP. Close Modi aide Amit Shah, given charge of UP, has been consulting Kalyan on strategies to revive the party. Part of the strategy is nine mega rallies across regions by Modi, who has already held four and is slated to undertake three more and wind up in Lucknow before February-end when the actual campaign begins. Shah too has been touring the state and plans to visit at least 52 constituencies to put a setup in place. He has set the state organisation a target of 1.25 lakh booth committees.
The party is banking on anti-incumbency a resurgent Congress won 21 seats in 2009 and public resentment against the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party government because of deteriorating law and order and communal riots.
Here, too, the BJP is relying on anti-incumbency of three terms against the Congress-NCP alliance, besides a clutch of high-profile cases such as the irrigation scandal and the Adarsh Housing Society scam. The BJP is in alliance with the Shiv Sena in the state, which has 48 Lok Sabha seats.
Within weeks of his appointment as campaign committee chief in June, Modi held a meeting with the core group leaders of the Maharashtra unit. The meeting discussed strengthening the BJPs presence at the booth level in the assembly segments that fall in the BJPs share of Lok Sabha constituencies, but which are traditionally given to the Shiv Sena in assembly elections.
The partys analysis suggested that at booth level, the BJP depends on the Sena far more in the 26 Lok Sabha constituencies that the former contests than the Sena does on the BJP in the other 22. In the 26 seats given to the BJP, half the 45,000 booths fell in assembly segments contested by the Shiv Sena. In contrast, of the Sena-contested 22 seats, less than 30 per cent of the 37,000 booths fell in assembly constituencies contested by the BJP. The meeting decided the BJP should no longer be overdependent on Sena booth managers and intensify its own booth management in coordination with the Sena managers.
The effort showed last week, when Modi and Rajnath Singh addressed a massive rally in Mumbai. The party ensured the attendance of booth committee members from every booth in the state. The Sena leadership was not invited to the rally, a move that earned the BJP some criticism.
This is the state that remains a real challenge to the BJP given the fact that the Congress snatched the assembly in 2013 with the BJP performing miserably in the wake of former chief minister B S Yeddyurappas exit. Yeddyurappas new party cornered about 10 per cent of the votes, and it had been under his leadership that the BJP had won 19 of 28 Lok Sabha seats in 2009. Now there is talk of a reunification.
Without Yeddyurappa, we can hope to win at best 10 seats. With Yeddyurappa we can even hope to win all 28, said a senior BJP leader. Modi is said to be persistently pressuring Rajnath Singh to get Yeddyurappa back into the fold. Rajnath Singh, in turn, has been trying to convince patriarch L K Advani, known to have strong reservations about Yeddyurappas return.s at 156 LS seats of UP, Maharashtra, Karnataka as key to 2014