Elections 2019: High stakes for national parties in phase 4
As polling for the fourth phase of the Lok Sabha elections gets underway on Monday, it marks a significant point in the political calendar. While each phase of polling is important for national parties, some are more important than others for reasons of political history and electoral presence.Updated: Apr 29, 2019 08:13 IST
As polling for the fourth phase of the Lok Sabha elections gets underway on Monday, it marks a significant point in the political calendar. While each phase of polling is important for national parties, some are more important than others for reasons of political history and electoral presence. As many as 239 seats will go to polls now (including the constituencies today). Out of this, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had won 161 seats in 2014. The Congress, meanwhile, had less than a dozen seats. In many of these seats -especially in states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Jharkhand and parts of Maharashtra and Punjab - there will be a direct contest between the two national parties.
The Congress believes it hit rock bottom in 2014. And, therefore, it can only grow. It sees potential in MP and Rajasthan, which together send 54 parliamentarians to the Lok Sabha, because of its electoral win in the state assembly. It calculates that its grand alliance in Jharkhand will erode the BJP’s support. And it claims that the mood in Maharashtra, especially in the rural belt, favours the party and its ally, rather than the BJP combine. It is based on these estimates - and the gains it assumes it has accrued in the south in the previous phases - that Congress strategists suggest they will at least triple their tally and go beyond 130.
For the BJP, the challenge is to retain its dominance in these states. It is acutely aware that its only trump card in the elections is Narendra Modi and his overwhelming popularity. And that is why, over the past week, there has been a propaganda blitz with Modi at the centre. The interview with Akshay Kumar, the show of strength in Varanasi with allies, the number of rallies across the country, including a big one in Mumbai, are all attempts to both showcase Mr Modi as well as project a certain inevitability of victory. This, the party believes, will help swing voters in its favour. It is, however, concerned that some of its supporters may turn complacent - which is why the repeated appeals to vote. The BJP assesses that replicating its 2014 success in all the upcoming battles - with the Congress as well as the opposition alliance in Uttar Pradesh - will be difficult. But it hopes to offset the losses with gains in West Bengal, where polling will continue till the last phase. The electoral battle is entering a more intense phase now.