Polling underway in 5th LS poll phase; Shah confident of meeting seat target | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Polling underway in 5th LS poll phase; Shah confident of meeting seat target

May 20, 2024 08:56 AM IST

The BJP faces a challenge from the opposition in Maharashtra, where it has been accused of engineering divisions in Shiv Sena and NCP

Polling is underway in six states and two Union territories with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, and Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani among the 695 candidates in the fray. Thirteen seats in Maharashtra, 14 in Uttar Pradesh, seven in West Bengal, five in Bihar, three in Jharkhand, five in Odisha, and one in Ladakh that are going to the polls are crucial for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as it seeks to return to power with a bigger majority.

A voter gets finger marked before voting in the fifth phase of Lok Sabha elections. (PTI)
A voter gets finger marked before voting in the fifth phase of Lok Sabha elections. (PTI)

The BJP, which won 23 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra in the last election and hopes to increase its tally, is contesting the polls in alliance with the Shinde faction of Shiv Sena.

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The BJP faces a challenge from the opposition in Maharashtra, where it is accused of engineering divisions in Shiv Sena, one of its oldest allies that walked out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2019 over power sharing, and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Ajit Pawar-led faction of the NCP is now part of the NDA.

Increasing its tally in Uttar Pradesh, which sends the highest lawmakers to Parliament (80) and where the BJP’s seats fell from 71 to 66 in 2019, is important for achieving the target of 370 of 543 Lok Sabha seats.

The contest for BJP is equally challenging in Odisha and West Bengal. The BJP won eight of the 21 seats in Odisha. It aims to increase the tally by adding at least four more. It hopes to double the number of seats (18 of the 42) it won in West Bengal in 2019.

The BJP won the lone seat in Ladakh in 2014 and 2019. It is facing anger there over the failure to implement the Constitution’s Sixth Schedule, which provides measures for autonomy and self-governance for scheduled tribes. Locals in Ladakh have been demanding protection of their land, jobs, culture, and language.

Meeting the target

Union home minister Amit Shah has reiterated his confidence that the BJP and its allies will succeed in meeting the target of winning over 400 seats. in an interview with Hindustan Times, he said voters cutting across demographics are reposing faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership.Shah said there is a groundswell of support for Modi across castes.

Since 2014, the BJP has altered its image as that of an urban, upper caste party. The party has given representation particularly to the socially and economically disadvantaged castes.

Shah said even their opponents are now sure that Modi will return for a third term. Shah said that the BJP will retain most of its existing seats and breach territories that have largely been impenetrable. “We will do exceptionally well in West Bengal and Odisha. In West Bengal, we will get 24 to 30 seats. We will form the government in Odisha [where assembly elections are being conducted simultaneously) and win more than 17 Lok Sabha seats.”

Regarding a lower turnout, Shah said the BJP voters are turning up to support the party. He added the voters who preferred the opposition are not showing up. “I was worried [about the turnout] after the first phase, but by the time the third phase of voting began, I discovered that the opposition’s voters were not showing up. They are deeply disappointed that the result is already in Modi’s favour, and they believe it is better to sit than go out [to vote] in the hot summer.”

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