Secret surveys by the BJP have brought home the bad news — the saffron party will be reduced to more than half its strength in Uttar Pradesh when the state goes to the assembly polls before May next year.
Officially, the BJP denies any such surveys. But the message has sunken in. So much so that former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee has gone to Lucknow to campaign in his constituency for the civic body elections due to be held this weekend.
Vajpayee has never campaigned for local bodies' elections before. BJP chief Rajnath Singh, former CM Kalyan Singh and other senior BJP leaders from UP are out on a hectic campaign tour.
The BJP has 82 legislators in a House of 403. It can now hope to secure close to 40. The surveys indicate that the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is set to emerge as the single largest party, with the Mulayam Singh Yadav-headed Samajawadi Party finishing a "close second."
The BJP does not look strong enough to fight the BSP or the SP in many places, particularly in eastern UP.
The only comfort for the BJP is that the Congress's prospect does not look great either. The surveys indicate that, even with the Gandhi family's keen interest, the Congress will not get more than 30 seats in the "best of scenario".
A rattled BJP leadership has asked for the surveys to check on whether "tacit understandings" can help boost the BJP's numbers. One thinking is whether the BJP, which is now dead against having any truck with Mayawati, can avoid "unprofitable" fights with Mulayam, who is no friend of the BJP but is a greater enemy of the Congress.
In other words, the BJP may not mind "friendly" contests against some SP nominees if the results mean victory either for itself or for the SP but not for the BSP or the Congress.
BJP chief Rajnath Singh, who was always against any alliance with Mayawati, has said the saffron party will not support the BSP after the elections at any cost.
Rajnath has sought to dispel the impression he is disinterested about the party's future in Uttar Pradesh ever since Kalyan Singh was made in charge of affairs in the state.