While touring UP, a young voter in a remote village in Dhaurhara area of Avadh made a pithy remark that has stayed with me. He said: ‘While MGB depends on jati mukhiyas, and Congress on paid workers, BJP is being carried on their shoulders by the lay public’. This seems to resonate well when we hear “Jai Shri Ram’ becoming the slogan of defiance against the goonda raj let loose by Mamata Banerjee. Congress has its own well oiled network, but there is almost none who works gratis, while BJP has millions of volunteers spending their own money to set up calling groups, Whats App communities, and ground level campaign groups. The difference is not just stark, but also reveals the essential difference between the core strategies between the two major political forces in India. Congress is moribund and bereft of idea, depending on vote aggregating middlemen, while BJP is resurgent, vibrant and bubbling with the vigour of youth and energy.
The single-most cause of alienation of Congress core voter is the sheer mendacity and lack of dignity of its Princeling President. I met a retired IAS officer in Jaipur, who has voted for Congress all his life. In 2019, he voted BJP because he found the behaviour of the Congress’s ‘Knight in shining Armour’ too crass and crude. ‘How can you call the Prime Minister chor without any evidence,’ he asked. He also said not only he, but his entire colony of 200 had been voting Congress, but had collectively decided to vote for Modi.
As we move into the home stretch, we come into it with BJP at 222 according to our post-poll data and NDA at 279. So, will BJP move into the majority within this phase involving 59 seats, or we have to wait for another Phase. Let us analyse.
Madhya Pradesh – 8 Seats
We move into Chambal and Madhya Bharat in this round, leaving Malwa and Nimad for the last Phase. Morena, Bhind, Gwalior, Guna, Rajgarh, Sagar, Bhopal and Vidisha go into polling in this round. This area had seen the largest gains for the Congress during the Assembly elections. Congress had successfully milked the anti-incumbency and also fanned disaffection among the Upper castes on the issue of SC/ST Act. However, six months of Kamal Nath government have convinced the public that they committed their greatest blunder by voting out the affable Mamaji who would stand with them in every trial and tribulation. The mood is one of repentance, and one of Modi endorsement. In some pockets like Gwalior, there is still the issue of candidate, but pro-Modi wave is palpable in this area just as it was in Vindhya and Mahakoshal. Some experts have thought that Bhopal would be a contest. However, I think it is a no contest. The wily politician, Digvijaya Singh, had thought that he would get through with the combination of Muslim, Rajput and SC voters. His calculations have gone awry after Sadhvi Pragya was fielded as the candidate.
MP – BJP 6, Congress 2 (Gwalior, Guna)
Delhi – 7 Seats
Delhi is a no-brainer. The voter in Delhi is very clear that the election is about PM. Local issues do not matter. Though JP Agarwal may give some fight to Dr. Harsh Vardhan, but the contest will ultimately be settled in the name of Modi. The rally in Ramlila Maidan may have sealed the issue completely.
Delhi – BJP 7/7
Haryana – 10 Seats
Politics in Haryana has changed over the past 5 years. It is clearly divided between Jats and non-Jats. The dominance of Jats has alienated almost every category of voter, including SCs. Moreover, running an honest government by Khattar, though not quite that efficient, has shown the Haryana public that honest governance is possible, and they are not about to let it go. Moreover, Jats are now divided into 3 factions, and that has not helped the situation either. The only question in Haryana is whether the progeny of Hoodas, Chotalas, and Bhajan Lals will be able to make a dent or not. On current evidence, even Deepender Hooda seems to be losing, though Hooda senior may just scrape through in Sonepat if the JJP does not damage him too much. Even Hissar and Sirsa seem to be going the BJP way. I am giving Sonepat to Hooda senior, and Rohtak is a toss-up. Keeping it conservative, I will place Rohtak with Congress for the time being.
Haryana – BJP 8, Congress 2
Uttar Pradesh – 14 Seats
4 seats of Rapti region (Shrawasti, Domariaganj, Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar), 3 seats of Koshal (Pratapgarh, Sultanpur, Ambedkarnagar), 3 seats of Prayag region (Allahabad, Phulpur, Bhadohi), and 4 seats of Purvanchal (Azamgarh, Lalganj, Jaunpur and Machhalishahar) go to polls in this round. All the seats except Azamgarh were won by BJP in 2014.
Shrawasti is a BJP Brahmin v Congress Rajput v BSP Kurmi contest. It strengthens BJP as the Yadavs are leaning towards BJP here, as SP is not contesting. Similarly, In Domariaganj, BSP has fielded a Muslim which has polarised the contest. Basti was won by Harish Dwivedi by over 50% vote, and Sant Kabir Nagar will see Praveen Kumar Nishad of BJP in place of Sharad Tripathi, while Ravi Kishan (Shukla), the famous Bhojpuri actor contesting a SP Nishad in Gorakhpur. This is an area where the absence of a third party, especially SP, is helping the BJP mop up more votes. Gorakhpur’s SP candidate will have no chance in a low Muslim population seat. All 4 seats in the Rapti region will go to BJP.
Interestingly, there is a tough contest on all the 3 seats in the Koshal region. In Pratapgarh, presence of Rajkumari Ratna Singh from Congress and another Thakur candidate from Raja Bhaiyya’s party Jansatta Dal makes sure that upper caste votes are divided. However, in spite of Akshay Tripathi from BSP, it is quite clear that a big chunk of Brahmin-Thakur vote will still go to Sangam Lal Gupta of BJP, who has replaced Apna Dal’s Harivamsha Singh here. The contest will be tough, but the OBC support gives an edge to BJP. Maneka Gandhi is also not having an easy time in Sulatanpur, as Varun did not serve the constituency well. However, BSP has strangely chosen a Thakur candidate Chandra Bhadra Singh ‘Sonu’ who is involved in the murder of a prominent Yadav and has a very bad criminal record. MGB is actually working to the advantage of BJP here. Sanjay Singh of Congress has his own little area of influence. So, BJP should sail through because of the absence of SP as Yadavs here cannot vote for BSP. Ambedkarnagar is a seat on which the Brahmin candidate was changed and ticket has been given by BJP to a Kurmi who is presently a minister in the Yogi cabinet. BSP has fielded Ritesh Pandey. Brahmins being nationalists will not support BSP candidate wholeheartedly, and OBC support of BJP will find them sailing through. So BJP will take all 3 seats of Koshal region.
In Prayag region, the 3 seats of Allahabad, Phulpur and Bhadohi have Kurmi and Brahmins as the dominant communities with Mauryas and Nishads also playing a part along with smaller OBC communities. 2 out of 3 Allahabad city constituencies fall within Phulpur. BJP has got its combo right for the 3 seats. There is a local issue in Bhadohi, but the BSP Brahmin candidate is handicapped by the fact that there are two powerful Brahmin groups with history of murders between them. Ramesh Kumar Bind defected to BJP from BSP, and has got into a huge controversy for remarks against Brahmins, and this is likely to seal his fate as Brahmins are nearly 15% in this constituency. BSP’s Rangnath Mishra should win from here. So BJP 2, BSP 1 in Prayag region.
In Purvanchal, BJP is comfortable in Machhalishahar and Lalganj. Nirahua is giving a huge run for his money to Akhilesh, but in the end, Akhilesh should prevail. In Jaunpur, BSP has fielded a Yadav (believe it or not). KP Singh, the sitting MP is very unpopular. Even Modi wave is unlikely to rescue him because of the Yadav+SC combo and Brahmins not voting for KP singh due to local factors. Jaunpur is an easy BSP win. BJP 2, SP 1, BSP 1.
UP – 14 seats – BJP 11, BSP 2, SP 1
Bihar – 8 Seats
Bihar is polling Champaran and West Saran area in this round. This area has the heaviest concentration of upper castes in the State. So the arithmetic of BJP+ here is unassailable. The seats are Valmikinagar – (JDU v INC), Pashchimi Champaran (BJP v RLSP), Purvi Champaran (BJP v RLSP), Gopalganj (JDU v RJD), Sheohar (BJP v RJD), Vaishali (LJP v RJD), Maharajganj (BJP v RJD), Siwan (JDU v RJD).
Due to the overwhelming arithmetical superiority, this is a no-contest area. Notice how very few Modi rallies have taken place in this area so far.
Bihar – 8 seats: NDA 8/8 – BJP 4, JDU 3, LJP 1
Jharkhand – 4 Seats
Jamshedpur (BJP v JMM), Dhanbad (BJP v INC), Singhbhum (BJP v INC), Giridih (AJSU v JMM).
Dhanbad is an interesting battle between Pashupati Nath Singh of BJP and the imported INC candidate Kirti Azad. Yet, Azad is not able to tide over the local equations, and will lose. BJP is winning its 3 seats easily, but JMM will beat AJSU to take Giridih.
Jharkhand – 4 seats – BJP 3, JMM 1
West Bengal – 8 Seats
The West Bengal battle moves into the coastal (Tamluk, Kanthi and Ghatal) and tribal areas (Bishnupur, Jhargram, Bankura, and Purulia) along with the sandwiched constituency of Medinipur.
West Bengal is becoming very difficult to project as the data coming from closed door interviews and what happens on the polling day may vary a great deal due to the fear and intimidation factor. If free and fair elections were to take place, BJP should win all the 8 seats. However, the TMC cadre on the ground is presently busy more in preventing people from voting than taking out its voters to vote.
TMC’s strong presence should ensure Tamluk , Ghatal and Kanthi staying with them. Jhargram, Purulia and Bankura are certain BJP wins, while Bishnupur and Medinipur are toss-ups. I will put toss-ups for TMC due to the goonda factor.
West Bengal – 8 seats: BJP 3, TMC 5
TOTAL: (out of 59): BJP 42, JDU 3, LJP 1 (NDA 46);
Cong 4, JMM 1 (UPA 5);
BSP 2, SP 1 (MGB 3);
Cumulative – Additional to 5 Phases :- BJP 264, NDA 325;
Cong 37, UPA 83