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Lok Sabha Elections 2024 | Although not expecting 'spectacular' victory, Congress confident of denting BJP's 2019 gains in north India

According to the assessment of Congress' poll managers and their partners in the I.N.D.I.A. alliance after Friday's first phase of voting, they believe they have at least retained their numbers, and the BJP has not made significant gains. Opposition leaders anticipate winning 50-60 out of the 102 seats that went to polls.
hemin Joy
Last Updated : 22 April 2024, 02:57 IST
Last Updated : 22 April 2024, 02:57 IST

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has claimed that the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections has gone the BJP's way. However, the Congress believes that it is chipping into the BJP's 2019 gains in northern India, which could potentially harm the saffron party's prospects for a record third term.

According to the assessment of Congress' poll managers and their partners in the I.N.D.I.A. alliance after Friday's first phase of voting, they believe they have at least retained their numbers, and the BJP has not made significant gains. Opposition leaders anticipate winning 50-60 out of the 102 seats that went to polls.

After observing the BJP's campaign, particularly that of PM Modi, sources within the Congress leadership assess that the rhetoric surrounding the Ayodhya Ram temple has not gained significant traction. Additionally, they believe that caste-based consolidation against the BJP, particularly among groups like Rajputs and Jats, is favouring the Congress.

Furthermore, sources indicate that the BJP is facing challenges on the farmers' front and is perceived to be on the defensive, with sentiments against them among the poor and Dalits. The Congress' focus on a "pro-poor" approach led by Rahul Gandhi, along with a strategy centred on “issue-based” campaigning, is seen as effective by the Congress leadership.

Congress managers believe that Modi was "forced to" comment that 'even Ambedkar cannot change the Constitution', although he had previously "remained silent" when BJP leaders made similar statements.

“This issue had a resonance among Dalits. The change in Modi’s tone is due to the direct impact of Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge’s rhetoric that this is the last election to save the Constitution,” a senior leader told DH.

After three weeks of the party's campaign, Congress sources have indicated a positive assessment in Rajasthan, Haryana, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh. Poll managers are not predicting a "spectacular" victory, but they assert that the party is making a serious impact on the BJP in states where it has wiped out rivals electorally.

“We will see a scintillating performance by the Congress in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Karnataka, where we might end up with more seats than the BJP. The Modi factor is fading and in many seats non-existent, and the election focus has shifted to local and state-specific issues such as unemployment, price inflation, the defence of the constitution, and demands for a caste census," Congress leader Y B Srivatsa told DH.

Sources indicate that in Rajasthan, where Congress had failed to win any seats in the last two elections, the party and its allies RLP and CPI(M) are putting up a strong fight in around a dozen seats, particularly in the Marwar region. It is believed that the Congress alliance could secure 5-7 seats overall, benefiting from the discontent among farmers and Jats. Additionally, there is perceived resentment against the "weak" Chief Minister Bhajan Lal Sharma, both within and outside the saffron party, which is favouring the Congress's prospects.

Banaskantha and Anand are two constituencies in Gujarat where the Congress is focusing its efforts to regain ground after failing to secure victories in the last two elections.

While the party does not anticipate a miracle in Uttarakhand, where it currently holds no MPs, sources indicated that the trend in western Uttar Pradesh has provided some confidence. Regarding the I.N.D.I.A. bloc, they mentioned that even maintaining the 2019 numbers would be seen as a "positive" outcome.

In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress is relying on big names like Nakul Nath in Chhindwara and Digvijaya Singh in Rajgarh to secure seats, although they acknowledge that the real contest is in only “three-four seats”. Similarly, in Chhattisgarh, the party is in a tight contest in 3-5 seats.

In Bihar and Maharashtra, where the I.N.D.I.A. bloc is contesting, sources indicate that the alliance partners have the upper hand and could secure 20-25 seats each. In Jharkhand, sources suggest that Hemant Soren’s arrest has provided a boost, leading to significant shifts in five tribal seats.

In Haryana, where the Congress lost all ten seats last time, the party is grappling with factionalism and is aiming for half of the seats. However, Bhupinder Hooda's detractors are projecting the number at three.

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Published 22 April 2024, 02:57 IST

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