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Round Two: BJP cramped for space to improve

The second act of Elections 2004 will unfold on Monday in 136 seats spread across 11 states, including Uttar Pradesh.

The twin tasks for the BJP and its allies which now hold 87 of these seats: protect their flanks in saturation zones and make incursions into enemy territory. For the Congress combine, the easy round is over and it is time for a gruelling grind to take the tally beyond the 26 it has now.

Uttar Pradesh

The heartland begins the battle from its political frontline: eastern Uttar Pradesh. The cradle of Mandal and Mandir politics, the region has 32 of the state’s 80 seats.

If the BJP belies forecasts and retains 13 seats, it can hope to improve its tally in the rest of the state. But the Congress is eyeing at least three BJP seats, hoping to push up its tally from three. A belt where socialists still strike a chord, Mulayam Singh Yadav is optimistic of getting 11 seats, a gain of one.

Seats to watch: The dynasty double – Amethi, Rahul Gandhi’s debut seat, and Rae Bareli, where Sonia Gandhi is in the field.

Bihar

Another state where the BJP will have to guard the territory it snatched in 1999. Seventeen of 40 seats give their verdict. Most are in areas where the pact between Laloo Prasad Yadav and the Congress could have an impact.

If the Opposition alliance works, the NDA could lose a considerable number from the 13 seats it won last time. The Opposition has sitting MPs in four seats and has won over Ram Vilas Paswan, who took Hajipur in 1999 with the NDA.

Seat to watch: Chhapra, Laloo Prasad vs Rajiv Pratap Rudy.

Maharashtra

Twenty-four seats in Konkan and western Maharashtra vote. The BJP-Shiv Sena group holds as many as 15 seats. The Congress-NCP alliance — which separately won nine seats in 1999 — looks formidable but the fight is tougher than what it faced in Vidarbha in the first round.

Seat to watch: Mumbai North, Govinda vs Ram Naik.

Andhra Pradesh

The battleground shifts to 21 seats in the south coastal belt and Rayalseema, tough terrain for the Congress after friendly Telengana. But if the anti-incumbency factor spreads, the Congress hopes to push up its tally to 12 from two. That will leave the NDA 10 down at nine.

Karnataka

One of the few states where the BJP hopes to break new ground. The 13 seats in the second round are in areas where the BJP could challenge the Congress.

Jharkhand

The NDA again has to play guard. It has six seats to protect while the Congress has only two.

Orissa

A saturation belt, where the BJP holds all the 10 seats. Any change is a gain for the Congress.

Assam

The NDA with one seat is keen to spread its reach but the Congress looks strong in four of the seven constituencies.

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