BJP government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi remain enormously popular. Given the state of the opposition and the enhanced reputation of the prime minister — the 2019 election will virtually be a referendum on Modi — it is a fair bet that the party is on course to win a second successive parliamentary majority.
Where will the BJP win incremental seats from in the Lok Sabha election of 2019? This is a valid question as the party had won such big victories in northern and western India in 2014 — sweeping every single seat in Gujarat and Rajasthan for instance, picking up, with a small allied party, 73 of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh — that its catchment areas offer little scope for gains.This is a rare feat, not accomplished by a party since the Congress won in 1980 and then 1984. As for a prime minister leading his or her party to two successive majority mandates, this has not happened since Indira Gandhi’s big victory in 1971. In two years, Modi could possibly make history.
To make history, however, he and Amit Shah, the BJP president, have to focus on those states and regions where the BJP footprint has grown in recent years but where the party has still not been able to convert general goodwill or an expanding voter base into a clutch of seats. The best example is Odisha. The BJP won 22 per cent of the popular vote in the state in 2014 but only one seat.The BJD won about double the BJP’s vote share. Yet, it owed its overwhelming victory — 20 seats out of 21 — in part to the Modi surge that had cut into the Congress vote and divided the opposition to the benefit of Naveen Patnaik’s party. The Congress was reduced to zero seats.
Today, the Congress is still struggling in Odisha. The Naveen Patnaik government is clearly past its prime and the chief minister himself is seen as the captive of a small clique of political managers who are virtually running the state. The functioning of one of those managers, who happens to be a serving IAS officer, is openly compared to the role Sasikala Natarajan played in the Jayalalithaa regime in Tamil Nadu.On the other hand the BJP, fronted by Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, is the rising force. As recent panchayat polls indicated, it has replaced the Congress as the second party in Odisha. While still behind the BJD, it is narrowing the gap. As the BJD falters, its functionaries and legislators are beginning to ask questions about the longevity of the party and its future after Naveen Patnaik. All this, combined with a good campaign, should stand the BJP in good stead in the summer of 2019, when Odisha sees both Lok Sabha and assembly elections.
In Bengal, the story is similar and the BJP is attempting to overtake the CPI(M) as the main challenger to the ruling Trinamool Congress. The difference is that in Odisha the BJP is at least one election cycle ahead of its efforts in Bengal. It is likely to make the breakthrough in Bhubaneswar in 2019, but will have to wait it out in Kolkata till the early 2020s. Nevertheless its seat share in Bengal — it won two seats out of 42 in 2014 — is set to rise.In Telangana, a state that had a BJP base as early as the 1980s but where the party subsequently lost its way, Modi’s party currently has one of 17 MPs. This too is a growth area for 2019. In Karnataka, the only southern state where the BJP has ever won an assembly election, the party took 17 of 28 seats in 2014 and is confident of an even better show.
For more news updates Follow and Like us on Facebook