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In 2019, BJP aims for big increase in tally of seats in eastern states

During his recent nationwide tour, BJP president Amit Shah spent three days in West Bengal; visited Manipur’s capital Imphal, where he met all party chief ministers and top leaders of the North-east; and spent a day in Odisha.

india Updated: Jul 24, 2018 07:21 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
BJP,2019 elections,Odisha
(From L-R) Union petroleum and natural gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan, BJP president Amit Shah and Odisha BJP state chief Basanta Panda in Bhubaneswar in July. (PTI File)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is looking for big gains from India’s eastern region as compared to its 2014 tally, and believes it can win close to half the seats across the 11 states, said a senior leader of the party.

In 2014, the BJP won two of 42 seats in West Bengal, one of 21 seats in Odisha, eight of 25 seats in the North-east, and one seat each of Andhra Pradesh’s 25 and Telangana’s 17. This made it a total of 13 out of 130 seats.

“We believe we will increase our tally several times over across these states,” said the leader, closely involved with the party’s campaign.

During his recent nationwide tour, BJP president Amit Shah spent three days in West Bengal; visited Manipur’s capital Imphal, where he met all party chief ministers and top leaders of the North-east; spent a day in Odisha; visited Telangana; and met the party’s Andhra Pradesh leaders.

The sense in the party, according to the leader cited above, is that it will see “huge, unprecedented gains” in West Bengal, where it has set a target of 22 seats; in Odisha, where it has set a mission of 120 of 147 seats in the assembly polls to be conducted along with the Lok Sabha polls; and the North-east, where it hopes to win 20 of the 25 seats.

In a recent interview, Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan explained the importance of the east for the party. “When Amit Shah took over as the party president in August 2014, in his first presidential address, he talked about eastern India. When we recently won elections, he said our victory will be complete when we form governments on the Coromandel coast. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been saying since his campaign in 2013 that till eastern India develops, we cannot say India is developing in a comprehensive and balanced manner,” he said.

Pradhan, who is leading the BJP campaign in Odisha, added that his state and West Bengal would constitute the pillars of a post-2019 government.

In the North-east, the BJP is in power on its own or in an alliance in Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura and is preparing for the Mizoram state polls at the end of the year. N Biren Singh, the chief minister of Manipur, said: “The Lok Sabha election and Modi’s comeback is important for us because the North-east was neglected before the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came to power.”

Claiming that the overall tally from the region would increase , the CM added: “In Manipur, we will win both the seats. In Nagaland and Meghalaya, the BJP or its ally will win. In Assam, in some parts, we will increase and some parts, we could dip. But together, the North-east will see a good performance.”

Opposition parties and experts however believe the BJP is being overly optimistic. “In Bengal the people will not give a single seat to the BJP,” said chief minister Mamata Banerjee from the dais of her party programme on July 21 in Kolkata. “Our target is 42 out of 42,” she said. Her nephew and party MP Abhishek Banerjee also set the same target.

Patricia Mukhim, editor of the Shillong Times, also had a cautionary note for the BJP. “It will be difficult for them to sweep the North-east. There is a sense of insecurity in pockets, in Mizoram, in parts of Meghalaya, in Muslim-dominated pockets of Assam. Many of these states are inhabited by minorities and they can see incidents of lynching and violence every day, and this causes apprehension. At the same time, people are wondering what is the alternative. There is uncertainty.”

Read: 45 days, 29 states: Amit Shah begins 2019 poll preparations with whirlwind tour

First Published: Jul 24, 2018 07:20 IST