A vote for Modi and against the Congress dynasty

The results of four of the five assembly elections are out.

The Congress is at an all time low in Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Even Chattisgarh isn’t the close contest it earlier promised to be.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s magic has been at work. Some may not believe it yet, given the party’s performance in Delhi, but his party is convinced of the man’s impact on the masses; and so do the leaders like Vasundhara Raje Scindia, Dr. Harshvardhan, Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Raman Singh who have benefited.

BJP and RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) workers are also convinced that the party wouldn’t have done so well in Rajasthan and managed to romp home in Chattisgarh but for Modi. It can be argued that more may have voted for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi if not for Modi. But these are conjectures and theories difficult to prove or disprove.

But what counts at the moment is the conviction of the BJP rank and file in the Modi magic, which would end the infighting within the party and improve its battling capabilities as it goes into the 2014 election.

The big question then is this: can the BJP repeat this performance across India six months from now?

For starters, BJP is looking at barely 290-odd of 543 seats. It would need to maximise its performance in north, west and central India, since it doesn’t have much of a presence in northeast, east and south India.

The east, northeast and south are the regions/states where it would need to rely on allies, mostly post election, who would wait for the party to reach a tally closer to the halfway mark of 272 before hitching their wagons to that of the BJP’s and not to a regional parties’ third front coalition.

Of these, let us first pick states where the Congress and BJP are in bipolar contests. It is safe to assume that in the absence of any third rival, and with the Congress being as moribund as it is now, the BJP should do well in these states.

These are Chhattisgarh (11), Madhya Pradesh (29), Rajasthan (25) and Gujarat (26). BJP’s best performance in Chhattisgarh has been 10 seats (in 2009), MP 25 seats (in 2004), Rajasthan 21 seats and Gujarat 20 seats. Let us assume the Modi factor may mean that the BJP gets all the 91 seats that these four states have to offer – possible if there is a Modi ‘wave’. (Such results have been known to happen. In 1977, the Janata Party wave meant the party winning all 85 seats in Uttar Pradesh. The Congress performed similarly in 1984.)

But the BJP under Modi would need to cross at least 200 of the 290 seats to attract regional parties like AIADMK and others so that the alliance reaches the halfway mark of 272 to form the government.

Where would these additional 109 seats come from?

The answer to this is self evident. UP (80) and Bihar (40) send 120 MPs to the Lok Sabha. Add another 48 seats from Maharashtra where the BJP fights in alliance with the Shiv Sena and 28 seats of Karnataka where the BJP may expect to do better with B.S. Yeddyurappa negotiating a truce. So, the maximum of those 109 seats would need to come from these 196 seats.

Can the BJP repeat its best ever performances in UP (58 seats in 1996), Bihar (24 seats) and Karnataka (20 seats). On the face of it this looks unlikely in the current scenario. A ‘Modi wave’, however, could deliver this and more. But UP and Bihar are known to vote on caste lines. Modi would need to consolidate a majority of the upper castes, OBCs (Other Backward Classes) and Dalits behind the BJP.

Can Modi persuade non-Jatavs among the Dalits to leave Mayawati and non-Yadavs among the OBCs to leave the Samajwadi Party’s Yadavs?

Indications are that many young Dalits and OBCs may be willing to give Modi’s BJP a chance for their desire to have a stable strong government at the Centre. This hypothesis, if true, could have BJP reach at least 40 seats if not more in UP. It couldn’t touch even two figures in 2009 and performed poorly in the 2012 assembly elections.

But Bihar may not be as easy. Of the 40 seats, BJP and Janata Dal (United) (JD (U)) in alliance won the majority of the seats in 2009. The alliance is off. Can the BJP win any significant number of seats if the JD (U) continues to hold on to its core constituency of extremely backward classes and Muslim votes?

The BJP can expect another 15-odd seats in Maharashtra. Other states where the BJP could do well are Himachal Pradesh (04), Uttarakhand (05) and Punjab (13), where it fights as a junior partner of the Shiromani Akali Dal. It may also expect majority of Delhi’s 7 seats.

Therefore, a Modi wave could help the BJP reach the target of 200 seats. However, much of this calculation is based on how well the party does in UP and Bihar. The Muzaffarnagar riots have consolidated its position in western UP. But eastern UP and Bihar may not be as easy.

Can an aggressive Congress by choosing good clean candidates overturn the BJP’s plans? Or will the Modi magic sweep much of north, central and west India? Much can happen in the next six months. Clearly, a very exciting time ahead.

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