Dimming Prospects Predicted For BJP As India Heads To The Polls

The world's largest democracy heads to the polls today, and while it is widely believed that the BJP will sweep the elections to return to power for a third consecutive term, cracks are beginning to appear in the ruling party's electoral machinery.

Dimming Prospects Predicted For BJP As India Heads To The Polls

The old adage jitne munh utni batein (as many pundits, as many predictions) defines the pervading perception about the results of the ongoing parliamentary polls in India. While some poll surveys have shown the BJP headed alliance coming back to power with a grand expected 400 plus majority in the Lok Sabha, many analysts, reporters and ground survey see the equation tilting in favour of the opposition’s INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) bloc. 

The first phase of polling for 104 seats will commence today on Friday, April 19.

West UP and Purvanchal

Western Uttar Pradesh, which is in the vicinity of capital New Delhi, will see voting on 8 crucial seats, like Rampur, Meerut, Bijnor and Saharanpur. Till about a week ago, the majority of political analysts and journalists were convinced that the BJP will sweep the region which is prone to communal polarization. However, many of them now see the opposition, the Congress-SP combined and BSP, putting up a tough fight, and even being at the cusp of winning more seats than it was expected to only a few days ago.

Kubool Qureshi, a political analyst, says that fielding of key caste candidates by BSP and possibility of Muslims resorting to strategic voting may mar BJP’s prospects. “BSP has fielded a Tyagi (upper caste) in Meerut, a Thakur (upper caste) in Kairana, a Prajapati (OBC) in Muzaffarnagar and a Jat (middle caste) in Bijnor. All these candidates are strong enough to eat into a major chunk of BJP votes, which will pave the way for Congress-SP candidates to steer towards victory. In Meerut and Rampur, even BSP candidates are in serious contention. Since BSP’s core voters – scheduled caste Jatavs – are in considerable numbers on all eight seats and their voting pattern has been the most loyal among all social sections in India since 1951 (they used to vote for Congress and 1989 onwards they became BSP’s devoted core voters), Mayawati-led party has made the contest tripartite,” said Kubool.

In Rampur, the bastion of the famous and now jailed Muslim leader Azam Khan, the SP has surprisingly fielded a cleric, Maulana Mohibullah Nadwi, the imam of Parliament Street mosque of Delhi. But, says Kubool, Azam’s coterie, which is very active in the district, has decided to back BSP’s Zeeshan Khan, who like Azam, is a Rohilla Pathan. “If Muslims of Rampur herd behind a single Muslim candidate, he will easily sail through as Muslims form around 50% of votes,” said Kubool. 

Meanwhile, a leading TV organization (TV9) in partnership with poll consultancy firms Peoples Insight and Polstrat have published a survey on poll perception in UP. According to the survey, the BJP and its Apna Dal will be able to win 68 out of 80 seats, while the Congress-SP combine will manage to grab 12. 

This survey interestingly contrasts Kubool’s opinion of BJP facing a tough battle in West UP. As per this survey, the BJP can lose only Kairana seats and will have an easy or tough rise in the remaining 7 first phase seats and emerge victorious. 

The survey punctures BJP’s much-advertised ambitious plan of clean sweeping the state with a perfect 80 seats. The survey specifically shows that BJP is losing big time in the caste-heavy Purvanchal (Eastern) region. 

According to a TV9 opinion poll survey, of the 12 seats on which BJP is expected to lose in UP, 7 seats are from Purvanchal, one seat from Western UP and 4 seats from Awadh-Braj region. One thing that’s clear from this is the that BJP’s absolute rule can continue in Western UP, but there is the possibility of a huge shock in Purvanchal. SP is likely to win Kairana, Mainpuri, Pratapgarh, Kannauj, Ambedkar Nagar, Lalganj, Ghosi, Azamgarh, Jaunpur, Machlishahr and Ghazipur Lok Sabha seats, while Rae Bareli seat seems to be going to Congress. 

Rae Bareli has been a Gandhi family bastion and even though no candidate has been finalized yet, chances are Priyanka Gandhi or her cousin Varun Gandhi may contest the seat to continue the family legacy. 

Purvanchal is very important for BJP, because Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister CM Yogi Adityanath come from here, Modi, who hails from Gujarat, is contesting from Varanasi, his home constituency since 2014). Apart from this, three ministers of the Modi government and 13 other ministers of the Yogi government also come from Purvanchal.

There are 21 districts in Purvanchal and 26 Lok Sabha (Lower of Parliament) seats. 

BJP is in a weak position due to the caste equation in Purvanchal. In the 2017 Assembly elections, the strike rate of NDA (BJP’s alliance) was 81 percent, while in Purvanchal it was 77 percent, whereas in the 2022 Assembly elections, the strike rate of NDA was 68 percent, which came down to 59 percent in Purvanchal. 

In 2022, BJP could not even open its account in 3 districts of Purvanchal. Talking about the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP lost Azamgarh, Lalganj, Ghazipur, Ghosi and Jaunpur of Purvanchal, whereas in 2014, the party had won these seats.


In the 2019 elections, despite the sharp echoes of the Rafale Deal corruption allegations against PM Modi and CM Nitish Kumar being alleged to be a partner of a “corrupt” government, the BJP’s state alliance had managed to win 39 out of 40 seats. This time, like UP, the BJP alliance has planned for the jackpot. 

According to the TV9 poll, out of 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar, BJP-led NDA is likely to get 31 seats while the INDIA bloc is likely to get 8 seats and one seat is going to others. Out of 31 seats going to its alliance, BJP is seen winning 17 seats, while its ally JDU is seen getting 8, LJP (R) 4, Manjhi and Kushwaha’s party are seen getting one seat each.

According to the survey, the BJP alliance may have to lose 9 seats in the state. These seats belong to Nitish Kumar’s JDU and Chirag Paswan’s LJP. JDU is expected to win only 8 out of 16 seats while it may have to face defeat on 8 seats. Out of the 8 seats on which JDU is losing, RJD is winning 6 seats, Congress is likely to gain one seat and independent Pappu Yadav, a prominent political face of Bihar, may also clinch one seat, Purnea. Similarly, there is one seat where Chirag Paswan’s party can be defeated, and the winner will be Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD.

Battle for 42 Seats in South India

The first phase will see a contest on 42 seats in 4 states of South India. This includes all 39 Lok Sabha seats of Tamil Nadu, while the Union Territories Lakshadweep and Andaman Nicobar have one seat each. Apart from this, one seat is from Puducherry. In the 2019 TN elections, DMK had won 24 out of 39 seats, while including Puducherry, Congress had won nine seats, CPI, CPM had won two each, VCK and IUML had won one seat each and AIADMK had won one seat.

The Puducherry seat is with Congress, and it was won by V. Vaithilingam of Congress. There is election for one seat each in Lakshadweep and Andaman in the first phase only. NCP’s Mohammad Faisal had won in Lakshadweep, while Andaman and Nicobar has been a strong stronghold of Congress, but for the last few times, Congress and BJP have been winning here alternately. BJP, which was out on zero in Tamil Nadu last time, is making full efforts for better performance this time.

BJP is trying to increase its fortunes through the hard work of its Tamil Nadu state unit president Annamalai, an alliance with nine small parties as well as issues related to the livelihood of fishermen with claim on and exposing mistake of previous Congress regime on handover of Katchatheevu Island to Sri Lanka.

PM Modi himself is trying to break the image of BJP as an outsider party in the state and make inroads among the general public as the protector of Tamil culture and identity. However, AIADMK former and late charismatic leader Jayalalitha is missing the mark. Due to the separation of AIADMK from BJP’s NDA bloc, the contest on most of the seats seems to be triangular, which can benefit the DMK and Congress alliance.

Clash in Maharashtra and MP

The BJP will face the challenge of repeating its performance on five seats in Maharashtra and six in Madhya Pradesh in the first phase of voting. 

Of the five seats in Maharashtra where voting is on Friday, the BJP had won four seats in 2019. The political equation has become complicated after the split between Shiv Sena and NCP and Ajit Pawar and Eknath Shinde joining the BJP camp, while Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray staying with Congress. There is a close contest between the India alliance and the NDA alliance in Maharashtra. In the first phase itself, it will become clear who has the upper hand.

According to an independent survey and inputs gathered by The Friday Times, out of 48 seats in the state, around 26 may go to the Congress-led opposition. Last time, the BJP had won a whopping 43 seats. 

At the same time, out of the six Lok Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh, where elections are held, BJP is in control of five seats while Congress, which had won Chhindwara by Congress stalwart Kamal Nath’s nephew in 2019, is confident that it will retain the seat. BJP wants to capture Chhindwara to give a jolt to Congress which, in case of losing the seat, will struggle hard to win back public support. BJP has thus intensified efforts to communally divide people via a survey of mosques and the advertisement of Ram Mandir construction, etc – which are weapons in the saffron party’s campaign armory. 

But, political analysts like veteran writer Ram Sharan Joshi and young Huda Zariwala say that despite BJP using every trick in the book; it can’t prevent its slide in the state. “In states like MP, Rajasthan and Gujarat, BJP has attained the maximum. It’s at the saturation point. Now, it only has to climb down. I don’t know how many seats it will lose in MP, but there will certainly be losses for them. Besides, I have just returned from Rajasthan, where they won all 25 seats in 2014 and 2019 elections. People on the ground told me that they would lose around 8-9 seats. In my estimate, they look set to lose at least 5-6, if not more,” said Joshi. 

EVM: Poll Management?

Mumbai-based political analyst Huda Zariwala, who has been keenly observing the ongoing elections and regularly collecting perceptions from various states, says that the perceptions from the ground spell clear “doom” for the BJP and that the only possibility that can catapult the saffron party back to power is the “management” of the poll via “EVM rigging” and other “malignant measures.” But, she also admits that the BJP has the best cadre strength and most streamlined battery of booth-level workers. “This also works in their favor, and justifiably so,” said Huda.

A battery of political pundits, who may be keen for or averse to the BJP and its politics, will be in agreement with Huda, even if it leads to a confused reading of election outcomes – jitne munh, utni batein.

The author is an independent journalist in New Delhi