With two rounds of the Lok Sabha elections over, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress - the two chief contenders for power -- are realising it may be tough for them to improve upon their 2004 tally, according to their internal assessments.
In the 2004 elections, the Congress emerged the single largest party winning 145 seats followed by the BJP at 138. The Congress thus staked its claim to forming a government in alliance with several parties.
According to BJP and Congress sources, both the parties are struggling to increase their 2004 results substantially so as to move closer to numbers needed for a simple majority in the Lok Sabha
Polling has been conducted in 265 of the 543 elected Lok Sabha seats in the first and second phase on April 16 and 23. The rest of the constituencies will go to the polls Thursday and on May 7 and 13. The results will be known May 16.
The feedback from party workers in BJP and Congress headquarters indicate that multi-cornered contests for many seats and changed profiles of most of the constituencies due to delimitation are proving to be major hurdles.
But both the parties believe their fortunes are going to revive in Uttar Pradesh, which elects the maximum of 80 MPs among all states. The Congress won nine seats in 2004 and the BJP 10.
A BJP leader, who did not want to be named, told IANS: "We expect to at least double our tally in Uttar Pradesh. We are doing very well in eastern Uttar Pradesh on our own and in western Uttar Pradesh with Ajit Singh."
The party is also expecting to consolidate its position further in Karnataka where 17 of the 28 constituencies have voted. The BJP had won 18 Lok sabha seats in the state in 2004. Congress analysts claim their party is going to increase its tally substantially in Karnataka, where it managed only eight seats last time.
"Our vote share is going to increase significantly in Uttar Pradesh too," a senior Congress leader said. "But due to multi-cornered contests, it is not clear how much of this could be translated into seats."
The situation is similar in Bihar, where the Congress may not improve its tally -- it won three seats in 2004 -- but it hopes to regain lost ground in several areas.
The BJP is reportedly consolidating its position marginally in Bihar although its ally, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), is likely to make major gains at the cost of Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which won 22 seats in 2004.
The BJP and the JD-U had respectively won five and six seats in the polls five years ago.
In Maharashtra, where polling has concluded in 38 of the 48 seats, the Congress expects to at least retain or possibly better marginally its 2004 tally of 13 seats.
The BJP's assessment is that its alliance with the Shiv Sena would help it improve upon its previous performance when it won 13 seats.
In Andhra Pradesh, the Congress is struggling to retain its hold on both assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies.
"The TDP-TRS alliance is formidable but we are hoping to retain a decent number of seats. The picture is, however, not clear because Chiranjeevi's Praja Rajyam Party has led to multi-cornered contests," another Congress leader said. None of these leaders wanted to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media by the party.
The Congress had performed very well in Andhra Pradesh in 2004, winning 29 out of 42 Lok Sabha seats.
The BJP is struggling in Orissa but upbeat in Assam, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. The Congress expects to improve its showing significantly in Kerala and Orissa and retain its tally in Assam.