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regular-article-logo Monday, 27 May 2024

BJP unease over in-house reports, Maharashtra and Karnataka barrier to 400-plus seats target

If the NDA has to win 400-plus seats, the BJP and its allies will not only have to hold on to their 2019 seats but look for fresh areas to scale up the tally, party sources said

J.P. Yadav New Delhi Published 31.03.24, 06:24 AM
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Shivraj Patil’s daughter-in-law Archana Patil Chakurkar joins the BJP in the presence of Maharashtra deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Maharashtra BJP president Chandrashekar Bawankule in Mumbai on Saturday.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker Shivraj Patil’s daughter-in-law Archana Patil Chakurkar joins the BJP in the presence of Maharashtra deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Maharashtra BJP president Chandrashekar Bawankule in Mumbai on Saturday. PTI picture

Surveys commissioned by the BJP have identified Maharashtra and Karnataka as potential hurdles to achieving the target of 400-plus Lok Sabha seats that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set for the NDA, party sources said.

Of the 76 seats the two key states together account for, the BJP and its allies had won 66 in the 2019 general election. But ground reports suggest that repeating the performance this time could be an uphill task, party insiders said.

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Of Maharashtra’s 48 seats — the second highest after Uttar Pradesh — the BJP had bagged 23 the last time while the undivided Shiv Sena, its then ally, had won 18. In Karnataka, the BJP had swept 25 of the 28 seats.

While Maharashtra’s political landscape has changed with the Sena and the NCP splitting and alliances being reshaped, internal wrangling is the main challenge for the BJP in Karnataka, the sources said.

These assessments are based on survey reports from professional agencies hired by the BJP leadership. Party sources said that more than one poll consultancy had been at work on the ground, assessing the BJP’s prospects in individual constituencies.

While extensive surveys were conducted before the distribution of tickets, more are being carried out following the announcement of candidates.

“The reports coming out of Maharashtra and Karnataka are not exciting. The party will have to put in extra effort to minimise losses,” a BJP leader said.

Ground reports from Maharashtra suggest a possible sympathy factor in favour of Sena faction leader Uddhav Thackeray as well as NCP veteran Sharad Pawar. Both have been running an emotional campaign, claiming to have been “stabbed in the back” by people they had promoted (and who have now joined hands with the BJP).

The BJP has been accused of engineering the splits in the Sena and the NCP, through rebellions by current Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde and Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar, respectively.

If the NDA has to win 400-plus seats, the BJP and its allies will not only have to hold on to their 2019 seats but look for fresh areas to scale up the tally, party sources said.

The BJP won 303 seats in 2019 and the NDA, 353. But the BJP seems to have attained saturation in most of the northern and western states that form its core turf. The party had also fared well in the east and the Northeast in 2019, with a stunning haul of 18 seats in Bengal that it will be hard-pressed to improve on.

“To increase our tally and come close to the target set by Prime Minister Modi, we will have to win more seats in the eastern states like Bengal and Odisha and also spring surprises in the south beyond Karnataka,” a party leader said.

The survey reports from Bengal and southern states like Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu — and to an extent Kerala — are “very exciting”, this leader said. “But not those from Karnataka.”

Since it lost Karnataka to the Congress last year, the BJP’s problems in the state have only worsened, party leaders said.

The party’s flip-flop policy on veteran B.S. Yediyurappa has intensified the factional feuding in the state unit, and many in the BJP fear that this could see leaders and cadres working at cross purposes.

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