Friday, April 10, 2009

Seven saffron stars

10 Apr 2009, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: Even states-Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh-accounted for a bulk of the seats bagged by BJP in 2004. If the saffron party nurses any realistic chance of retaining, if not improving, its tally, it'd be again banking its hopes on the same clutch of states. The seven states together provided the lion's share of 111 seats to BJP's overall kitty of 138 seats in the Lok Sabha five years ago. The individual share of these states was Madhya Pradesh (25), Rajasthan (21), Karnataka (18), Gujarat (14), Maharashtra (13), Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh (10 each).

Of these, four-Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh -are ruled by the party. It lost power in Rajasthan in the assembly polls held late last year while Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have remained out of its grasp for some time now.

The party's strategists are pinning their hopes on a repeat performance in these states to help them retain their tally in the next Lok Sabha. The principal opposition party, it'd appear, had reached its peak in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka. BJP brass is thus devising strategies to ensure that their party does not lose any significant ground in these four states. State-level satraps such as Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Raman Singh, B S Yeddyurappa and Vasundhara Raje, thus, have a crucial role to play in the party's power-project.

In the remaining three states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, they're hoping for an improved show. They're looking towards Narendra Modi to deliver at least 18-20 seats. In the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, they feel the party had reached its nadir in 2004, when it could emerge victorious in only 10 of the 80 seats, and was one of the primary factors responsible for NDA's defeat.

The party's decision to forge a pre-poll alliance with former union minister Ajit Singh's RLD and the perceived anti-incumbency confronting the Mayawati government is giving confidence to the BJP leaders that they'd be able to better their tally in Uttar Pradesh. They feel Brahmins, who formed a critical factor in BSP's spectacular show in the assembly polls held in the state in May 2007 may have started deserting Ms Mayawati's party and gravitating back towards BJP.

BJP and its alliance partner, the Shiv Sena, had together won 25 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra. With the Congress-NCP combine staring at alliance problems and a bout of anti-incumbency disadvantage, the NDA is sanguine about its prospects in the state.

While the seven states together accounted for 111 of the 138 seats won by BJP in 2004, the remaining 27 seats were provided by Orissa (7), Bihar (5), Punjab, Uttarakhand (3 each) Arunachal Pradesh, Assam (2 each), Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Delhi (1 each).

With BJP's alliance with BJD collapsing in Orissa, the party leadership is bracing for a reduction in their share from the state, but are hoping to make up for the losses, if any, by winning more seats in Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam and Himachal Pradesh.

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