BJP leaders dress up for the 'party,' but will they get invited?

BJP leaders dress up for the 'party,' but will they get invited?

Even though the final word is still to be out with ‘Friday, the May 16’ at least ten days away, the BJP is behaving as if it has already won the Lok Sabha elections and that the result declaration exercise is merely a formality. BJP’s prime minister candidate Narendra Modi too is cocksure that he would be next occupant of the 7 Race Course Road.

He doesn’t hesitate in addressing himself as “future prime minister” during campaigning and even in media interviews he candidly states that people of the country want him to lead the nation.

Interestingly, addressing a rally in Chandigarh on March 30, he told the gathering that “the future prime minister knows you better than the local representative.” The leading opposition party’s exuberance stems from the fact that poll surveys are coming up with projections that are music to the ears of the BJP leaders.

That aside, even the Congress leaders, except for the first family of Gandhis, seem to have given up electoral race midway. A Congress leader close to vice president Rahul Gandhi privately conceded that there was tremendous anti-UPA sentiment all across the country which was hurting his own chances of returning to Lok Sabha despite taking care of his constituency.

The Aam Admi Party which did exceptionally well in the national capital to capture people’s mind space cutting across caste matrix with its fresh and clean politics seems to have hit a bend, finding it difficult to justify its “hit and run” Delhi government stint.

The BJP, on the other hand, is so cocksure about the outcome of May 16 results that its leaders’ reactions even during ‘off the record’ conversations have changed from ‘what if that didn’t happen’ to refer to the ‘obvious’ – that they will form the government. The same holds true for a small anti-Modi camp, identified with the patriach L K Advani within the party. Though Advani has publicly claimed that the BJP will form the government in 2014 producing the best ever tally, leaders close to him privately believe that they will not cross the 200 mark which leaves a scenario where the NDA still will have a shot at government formation, but under a different leadership.

And they recall that forming government for the BJP has never been easy. In 1996, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s maiden attempt to form the government could last only 13 days.  Eventually, it was thanks to Vajpayee’s leadership qualities that the NDA remained in power till 2004.

The BJP leaders believe that the saffron surge in the Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh, that accounts for maximum 80 seats and Bihar – which offers 40 constituencies, together with favourable states such as Rajasthan (25 seats), Madhya Pradesh (29 seats), Gujarat (26) will give them impetus to put up a good show.  In the recently held Assembly polls in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the electorates had given a decisive mandate to the saffron party which they believe will be repeated in parliamentary elections.

Twin anti-incumbency

In Uttar Pradesh, leaders attribute the acceptance of the party not only because of the popularity of Modi but also the twin anti-incumbency being played out – one against the UPA and the other against state’s ruling Samajwadi Party. Not to be forgotten is the polarisation that has taken place due to Modi factor and the Muzaffarnagar riots.

The biggest challenge for the BJP is to do well in Purvanchal, which is the eastern Uttar Pradesh that has 33 seats. Purvanchal and western Bihar form bulk of the 105 constituencies that will go to polls in the remaining two phases on May 7 and May 12.  Till 2009, the BJP was not a force to reckon with in the UP except for throwing a surprise result in 1998 when riding on the post Babri Mosque demolition scenario it got 57 seats. The party had won only Gorakhpur, Basgaon, Varanasi and Azamgarh in Purvanchal during the last parliamentary polls. It came second in four seats, third in 13 seats and fourth on eleven segments.

State party unit functionaries claim that young voters between 18 to 28 are rallying behind Modi having successfully sold the Gujarat model. Other than that, the party hopes to chip in voters especially from OBCs and dalits. Of the 199.6 million population in the state, 55 per cent are backwards. The party is emphasising among backwards that it is the BJP which has given chances to backward leaders to become chief ministers which includes Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti and Narendra Modi, who is effectively playing his humble OBC and tea vendor background.

A state leader also stated that party president Rajnath Singh was the first to recognise Maha-dalits and had provided reservation within reservation for the most deprived section of the society during his stint as the chief minister.

In Bihar, the BJP is witnessing a multi-cornered contest. At the other end of prism is RJD-Congress combine from the UPA and ruling JDU. The saffron party is engaged in a contest that is acknowledging a resurgent RJD lead by Lalu Prasad Yadav who is not contesting since he has been convicted in one of fodder scam cases.

A senior BJP leader agreed that Lalu is cheerful for the first time since 2005 indicating that he is putting up a decent fight but he is quick to claim that even if he manages to get Muslims and Yadavs vote, the steep decline of their divorced partner JDU is helping the BJP to comfortably emerge as the single largest party along with alliance associate LJP led by Paswan.

Besides, Modi in his interviews has been staressing that the party would do well in states where it does not have seizable footprints. But whether the BJP will be able to reach the ‘magical’ figure remains to be seen.