When we gave out our first opinion poll before the start of the Elections 2019, we had projected 271 seats for BJP. The number 271 was very significant for us, as it showed that BJP was not going to get majority on its own. The pointers were all there, BJP could not be expected to repeat the peak it had reached in 2014, and its prospects in West Bengal and Orissa were uncertain at best. However, as the elections wore on, it became clear that BJP was not losing too much of the bulk that it had gathered in 2014. On the other hand, it seemed to be making headway in hitherto uncharted areas like West Bengal and Orissa. Also, Congress seemed to be fading in areas like Punjab, which we thought would give Congress a sweep.
So the 7th Phase seems to be panning out like this:
Malwa and Nimad are voting in this round. Dewas, Ujjain, Mandsaur, Indore, Ratlam, Dhar, Khargone, and Khandwa are the seats going for polls in this round. Kantilal Bhuria in Ratlam seemed to be the best bet for Congress going into this round, but it seems that the quickly building anti-incumbency against the Congress govt, repentance of voting out a popular CM, and unpopularity of Kantilal himself would overwhelm Congress in their former stronghold. Khargone was another seat where Congress fancied its chances, but the seat is now in the toss-up category after Narendra Modi’s rally, with edge to BJP. We are, therefore, inclined to give a clean sweep to BJP in MP in this round.
MP – 8 seats: BJP 8/8
Punjab looked like a strong suit for Congress, where we had anticipated a near clean sweep for the party. However, the Modi effect seems to have caught up with Punjab as well. Together with some strong choice of candidates, such as Sunny Deol in Gurdaspur and Hardip Puri in Amritsar, decision of Sukhbir Badal to jump into fray himself from Ferozepur, dissensions within the Congress, and surprising uptick from AAP’s Bhagwant Mann in Sangrur; SAD-BJP are suddenly looking up. It must be remembered that even in 2014, NDA would not have picked up more than 2 or 3 seats had AAP not helped them by cutting into the Congress vote share. Yet, the situation is such that BJP is winning Gurdaspur comfortably, is ahead in Hoshiarpur, and fighting hard in Amritsar. SAD is winning the Badal seats of Bathinda and Ferozepur, and is in pole position in Tarn Taran (Khadoor Sahib), and would mount a tough challenge in Anandpur Sahib and Faridkot. Sangrur is a tough 3-way fight. It is quite possible that the upsurge from Bhagwant Mann may catapult Dhindsa of SAD to the victory podium.
Punjab – 13 seats. BJP 2, SAD 4, Congress 7
Kirrron Kher won the Chandigarh seat last time by 70,000 votes, while AAP’s Gul Panag took about 1,08,600 votes. Pawan Bansal has won the seat 4 times, and has a terrific connect. He can be seen on a morning walk every day at Sukhna Lake. Kirron Kher, on the other hand, neither had this connect, nor did she try and cultivate this. Chandigarh has a small electorate of about 8 lakh voters. Kirron Kher won 2014 because the ‘colony people’ and a large chunk taken away by AAP. AAP has had a meltdown, colony people are still enamoured by Modi, but the middle class does not seem to be so enchanted by Kher. It seems that Pawan Bansal has an edge this time.
Chandigarh – 1 seat – Congress 1
HP is BJP all the way. More than 15% lead is expected in HP. Nationalism reverberates in HP more than any other State except Uttarakhand.
HP – 4 seats: BJP 4/4
Deep Purvanchal is voting in this round. 6 seats of Gorakhpur (Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Kushinagar, Deoria, Salempur, Bansgaon), 3 seats of Saryu-Ganga region (Ghosi, Ghazipur and Ballia), and 4 seats of Kashi-Vindhyachal region (Chandauli, Varanasi, Mirzapur and Sonbhadra -Robertsganj) are polling in this round. Out of this, Apna Dal (S) is contesting Mirzapur and Sonbhadra, while BJP is contesting the remaining 11. The UC-OBC combination is most favourable to BJP in this region except in Ghosi and Ghazipur. Ghosi would have been a very difficult seat for BJP, but the unique feature of this seat is that the MGB candidate is absconding due to rape charges. This has left the MGB bereft of direction. Ghazipur is a tough seat too. However, fielding a Muslim by MGB has given a lease of life to Manoj Sinha, who sands to gain even from Yadavs and SCs because of his development record. It hasn’t helped that BSP and SP works have fought a pitched battle against each other. Manoj Sinha should sail through. Mahendra Nath Pandey is similarly well placed in Chandauli. Anupriya Patel and Lalitesh Tripathi of Congress is a major battle in Mirzapur, which could go either way. However, a Modi rally has again given a major fillip to Anupriya. Sonbhadra, on the other hand, looks like a lost cause. Gorakhpur region is going strong for BJP, in spite of some Brahmin resentment. Tie-up with NISHAD party was both timely and appropriate for BJP. Gorakhpur region is a clean sweep for BJP
UP – 13 seats – BJP 11, AD (S) 1, SP 1 (Grand Total BJP 64)
Patna (Nalanda, Patna, Pataliputra, Jehanabad), and Bhojpur (Ara, Buxar, Karakat, Sasaram) areas are polling in this round. These are otherwise strong areas for NDA. Shatrughan Sinha is only offering token resistance. Misa Bharati is also not offering too much of a fight. Upendra Kushwaha is fighting the battle of his life against JDU in Karakat, but is discovering that life is not easy as an independent unit when the hawa is not with you. Nalanda anyway is a Nitish bastion which he did not lose even in 2014. Jahanabad is similar. Meira Kumar does not seem to be faring any better either. Ara and Buxar will also repeat the incumbent. There is a Modi wave out there in Bihar.
Bihar – 8 seats: NDA 8/8; BJP 5, JDU 3
Godda, Rajamahal, and Dumka are the 3 seats polling in this round. The last 2 are ST seats and JMM is contesting them. Godda is having a tough fight between Nishikant Dubey of BJP and Pradeep Yadav of AD. A BJP rebel is queering the pitch for Dubey, but he should scrape through in a tough contest. On form, both ST seats should go to JMM, but an upset cannot be ruled out in Guruji’s seat. Sunil Soren is capitalising on the Modi name and Shibu Soren’s advancing age and disconnect is making it tough for him, especially with the younger voters. Yet, he may just about make it in a bruising contest.
Jharkhand – 3 seats: BJP 1, JMM (UPA) 2 (Grand Total BJP 11, JMM 3)
West Bengal has been the pick of states this season. The intensity of the fight is almost like an existential conflict. Bruising, bloody, and physical. Mamata seems to have sensed that this could be the beginning of the end of her political story, and she is putting up a helluva fight. Kolkata and nearby areas are in the poll scene in this round, with 4 seats from Kolkata alone. Out of these, BJP seems to have a very good chance in Dum Dum and Kolkata North, whereas Kolkata South is running close. Mamata seems rattled even in Diamond Harbour and Jadavpur, whereas Barasat and Basirhat should be safe. Jainagar amnd Mathurapur are the 2 reserved seats in this round, which TMC should be able to retain. I am giving 3 seats to BJP in this round, even though the ground reports are crying out that anything may happen in this round – anything meaning anything.
West Bengal – BJP 3, TMC 6 (Grand Total BJP 16)
PHASE 7 – 59 seats: