By the time second phase of the seven-phased general elections is over on April 18, fate of 188 seats-a decimal point over one third seats would have been sealed in the EVMs but initial trends are strongly suggesting that while the electoral battle is wide open, the ruling dispensation is fighting it out with its back towards the wall.
In the first two phases of the ongoing general elections, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had won 59 seats on its own while its main challenger- the Congress had mere 19 seats in 2014. In the first phase polling on April 11, barring Andhra Pradesh and Telangana the BJP enjoyed upper hand in 49 seats of which it won 29. Rest three seats in the first phase were won by the BJP in Andhra and Telangana. In the Hindi heartland states of Bihar, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, today’s ruling party won 16 of the 17 seats in 2014.
In West Bengal where the polling percentage remained good, the BJP is expected to gain. In 2014, both the seats were won by the Trinamool Congress but the BJP is likely to wrest one seat from Mamata Banerjee’s party. Similarly, in Tripura West and Outer Manipur, the saffron party stands a fair chance to win. In rest of BJP-held seats, battle has been tough and reports are indicating that the BJP may is likely to suffer losses.
The BJP had won all the 13 seats that went to poll in UP and Uttarakhand in the first phase, losses are going to be heaviest. The ruling party is expected to lose between seven and 10 seats. In Bihar out of four seats that went to poll, the BJP had held three seats but this time it is contesting one seat only. The NDA allies are battling out in the rest three seats. The BJP leadership is keeping its fingers crossed hoping that allies winthem though the contest is tough and fortunes may favour either of the two alliances.
The last general election in Maharashtra witnessed a one-sided contest. The BJP and its Sena had won all the seven seats that were at stake in the first phase. While the BJP had won five, the Shiv Sena two. In four of these seats, victory margin was more than 20 percent but ground reports suggest that it may be impossible for the BJP to retain its tally of las time. Experts and ground reports are suggesting a possible loss between two to three seats.
Out of the 14 total seats in Assam, five seats went to poll on April 11. The BJP had won four seats in 2014 with a victory margin of 15 percent votes. Gaurav Gagoi of the Congress had won the fifth seat. In the wake of the controversial citizenship bill that the Modi government had brought in parliament but could not be passed, the BJP is facing an uphill task particularly since the saffron party is missing no chance to repeat its determination to get the bill controversial bill into an act.
Experts and seasoned poll observers are ruling out a repeat of the 2014 performance by the BJP which if translated in numbers means a loss of about 20 seats over last time and a gain of four seats at the maximum. Polling for the second phase will be held on April 18 and 97 Lok Sabha seats in 12 states and a Union Territory of Puducherry are at stake. Elections for 39 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu are also scheduled in this phase. The BJP had won one Lok Sabha seat from the southern state in 2014 and hopes to gain few more this time in alliance with the AIADMK. The ruling party at the Centre has been given five seats to contest by the AIADMK.
The BJP had won 27 seats in 2014 while the Congress had won 12 seats In Bihar, five seats- Banka, Bhagalpur, Katihar, Kishanganj and Purnea- are being contested and the BJP had not won any of these five seats in 2014.
However in UP and Chhattisgarh, where 11 seats are going to poll, the BJP had won all the seats in 2014. In both the states, it is an impossible task to win all the seats. In Chhattisgarh particularly where the BJP has denied tickets to all the sitting 10 MPs, it is facing an uphill task to retain three seats in the second phase.
There are24 seats in Karnataka and Maharashtra that are going to polls in the second phase. In 2014, the BJP had 11 seats while its ally Shiv Sena had won five seats. The BJP’s spectacular performance was the result of the strong Modi wave that swept the country but situation has changed considerably now.
In the second phase too, the BJP’s tally is not going to improve rather it is going to be reduced by a minimum of 10 seats. Gain by its allies are also not in sight.
Competition between the ruling BJP and the opposition parties despite the lack of unity among them appears to be tough but then why majority of opinion polls have predicted an electoral edge for the BJP led NDA?
Answer to this puzzle is not far to seek. It is because there is a big gap between the support that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is getting in urban townships and metro cities and that he is getting in rural areas.
Dr. Satish Misra is a Veteran Journalist & Research Associate with Observer Research Foundation.