The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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War Zones
Where the decisive battles will be fought this time

Uttar Pradesh

The battleground of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Sonia Gandhi is set for a four-cornered contest between the BJP, the Samajwadi Party, the BSP and the Congress. But murmurs of an undercover understanding between the Samajwadi and the BJP refuse to die down. With secular votes bound to split and backward leader Kalyan Singh —who had quit the BJP before the 1999 elections — back in its ranks, Vajpayee’s party is breathing easy. Its only source of worry could be the Brahmin and Thakur voters, upset with Kalyan’s return at the helm. For the Congress, Rahul Gandhi’s nomination has been the only reason for cheer in this bleak scenario.

Madhya Pradesh

A straight fight is on the cards between the BJP and the Congress, with the Gondwana Gantantrik Party in a position to play spoiler in two or three seats. The state swept the BJP to power in the Assembly elections just over 100 days ago, and the public mood has not changed much since. Jyotiraditya Scindia is the new star on the Congress horizon.

Tamil Nadu

As usual, it is the DMK front fighting the ADMK front. Only the allies have swapped sides. The BJP, which was with Karunanidhi in 1999, has teamed up with Jayalalithaa. And the Congress, which was with the ADMK then, is with the DMK now, along with the Left parties, the PMK, the MDMK and the IUML. The Congress itself is fuller now, with the breakaway Tamil Maanila Congress’ return to the party. Going by pure arithmetic, the DMK-led front has the edge. Jayalalithaa is battling anti-incumbency as local issues dominate the election.

Andhra Pradesh

The BJP and the Telugu Desam Party, which were together in 1999, have not parted ways. On the other side, the Congress has stitched up a union with the Telengana Rashtra Samiti that could make an impact in the Telengana region. The Congress also has a seat-sharing deal with the Left. The ruling Desam is facing the heat of farmer suicides and the Krishna and Godavari water-sharing disputes. The US campaign against outsourcing has dampened the mood of thousands of graduates from engineering colleges set up by Chandrababu Naidu. But Naidu is counting on women voters. For him, the simultaneous Assembly polls are more important.


Old allies BJP and Shiv Sena are again pitted against the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine. Anti-incumbency — after two “non-performing” chief ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde — is a big worry for the ruling alliance. So are corruption — after Chhagan Bhujbal’s name was linked with the stamp paper scam — and the state government’s financial mess — it has run up a debt of Rs 85,000 crore.


The BJP and the Janata Dal (United) are pitted against the Congress-Rashtriya Janata Dal-Left-Ram Vilas Paswan combine. Paswan’s entry into the alliance — he was on the other side in 1999 — is seen as a plus. With the Congress bringing in some new candidates — like Jagjivan Ram’s daughter Meira Kumar in her father’s stronghold Sasaram — and Laloo Prasad Yadav contesting two seats, the alliance looks sound. But the BJP-Dal (U) combine remains strong, helped by anti-incumbency.


A confident BJP takes on a demoralised Congress in the riot-scarred state. Narendra Modi’s BJP was the first off the block in the campaign race — the Congress is yet to start. Bitter infighting has made matters worse for the party. But with the minorities expected to back it, the Congress could win some seats, especially if its efforts to build a minority-OBC-Dalit axis work. Modi, not allowed a free hand by the high command, is not happy with the choice of some candidates.


The BJP is upbeat after the surprise Assembly poll sweep and has launched an aggressive campaign against a downcast Congress. But caste politics appears to be catching up with the BJP again. In the state elections, it coursed to victory with the support of Jat and Rajput votes. This time, the Rajputs are unhappy that the Jats have cornered a chunk of the seats.


A three-cornered contest here between the Congress, the BJP-Janata Dal (United) and Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular). Anti-incumbency and three consecutive drought years will work against the Congress, which is also seeking a return to power in the Assembly elections. But it has the backward and the minority votes to fall back on. The BJP got a big boost with S. Bangarappa’s switch from the Congress.


This is the only one of four states the Congress held on to in the December Assembly elections. But the bad news for the party is that the Sheila Dikshit factor is not expected to work now. Unlike in many other states, voters here are not likely to vote on local issues in the general polls. The BSP and the Samjawadi Party could play spoilers in east Delhi, where there is a large migrant population from Uttar Pradesh..


The BJP-BJD combine is facing a challenge from the Congress, which has left one seat for the JMM. While the Congress has made the “non-performance” of the Naveen Patnaik government and corruption its campaign theme, the BJP-BJD alliance is going to voters with Patnaik’s clean image. The Congress could expect to improve its tally.


The only state where the BJP is yet to win a single seat. The contest is between the Left Democratic Front and the Congress-led United Democratic Front. It’s a close fight but whoever wins will sit on the same side in Parliament.


With a split opposition — the AGP and the BJP that had an alliance in the last Assembly polls are contesting separately — the Congress is in a strong position. But since it already has 10 of the 14 seats, it can improve, if at all, only marginally


Nothing much is expected to change here, except for a seat here or a seat there. In a three-cornered contest — the Left, Trinamul-BJP and the Congress — the CPM-led ruling combine should retain its share of seats. With celebrities — Nafisa Ali and Moushumi Chatterjee — jumping into the fray, some colour has been added to a boringly predictable election.


Officially, it’s the BJP-JD (U) combine against the Congress-JMM alliance. But “friendly fights” are on the cards. The contest could be four-cornered in some seats. The BJP, which swept the last elections, is also battling anti-incumbency and infighting. If the Congress and JMM can iron out their differences, the BJP-JD (U) combine could be in trouble.

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