NEW DELHI :
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is focusing on its 2019 Lok Sabha election campaign on states where it did not perform well in 2014 —something that’s evident from the 27 public meetings Prime Minister Narendra Modi has held in the last two months.
Apart from a renewed focus on Uttar Pradesh, where Modi held six public meetings, the focus was on states such as Odisha, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and the Northeast. The BJP has failed to play a decisive role and win a large number of seats in states such as Odisha and West Bengal.
In the eight states of the North-east, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has formed the government in seven. However, the Congress won a substantial number of seats in these states in 2014 and the BJP plans to trump its arch-rival in 2019 to continue its winning spree in the region.
The BJP leadership has clubbed Odisha, West Bengal and the North-east region, with the party believing it can win a substantial number of the seats with the help of Modi and on the basis of the work done by the NDA government in the last four years.
“There are a total of 88 Lok Sabha seats if we combine West Bengal, Odisha, and the North-east region. The BJP had won 11 of these 88 seats (in the 2014 election). There is a lot of scope for improvement for the party and that is why Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone to Odisha three times; three rallies have been organized in the North-east, and one public meeting held in West Bengal. There will be more public meetings of Modi in West Bengal," said a senior BJP leader aware of the party’s strategy.
BJP leaders point out that the party was actively taking up issues against the West Bengal government led by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, as well as Odisha, led by chief minister Naveen Patnaik, to make it a direct contest between the BJP and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal and a similar political battle in Odisha against the Biju Janata Dal.
“If we are able to make it a contest between Mamata Banerjee and the Prime Minister in West Bengal, we will be able to corner a large share of the anti-Mamata votes. By sidelining the Left and the Congress in West Bengal, the BJP could play a decisive role in both state politics and national politics of West Bengal. The case is the same in Odisha, where the BJP wants to make it a direct contest with Patnaik by cornering the Congress in the state," the BJP leader said.
Senior leaders of the BJP also said that while the party continues to play an important role in Karnataka politics and has won a considerable number of seats in the state, the case is not the same in other states such as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.
“If we look at the politics of the southern states, the BJP had won 21 out of the 130 Lok Sabha seats and there is a huge possibility of outreach and electoral improvement for the party. The Prime Minister is our star campaigner. So, in the last two months, we have organized four public meetings of Modi, especially in Tamil Nadu and Kerala," the BJP leader said.
The BJP is also making an extra effort in states that have traditionally been its stronghold. With the Gujarat assembly election result not being very favourable for the party, Modi has visited his home state at least four times and, with growing trouble with ally Shiv Sena, visited Maharashtra thrice.
Efforts are also being made in Uttar Pradesh, which played a key role in securing for the BJP a majority in the Lok Sabha. The BJP-NDA combine won 73 out of the 80 seats in the state in 2014 and wants to retain the narrative in the state now that the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party have joined hands against it and the Congress could be the third force in Uttar Pradesh.