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Daring dozen: 12 crucial States where BJP is likely to face a stiff challenge

With 369 seats up for grabs, formidable regional parties in these States are poised to challenge BJP’s anticipated sweep in the Lok Sabha election.

Published : Mar 18, 2024 17:49 IST - 3 MINS READ

Art students in Mumbai create voting awareness ahead of the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha election.

Art students in Mumbai create voting awareness ahead of the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha election. | Photo Credit: DEEPAK SALVI/ANI

The prevailing consensus among psephologists and pundits seems to be that the BJP will sweep the 2024 Lok Sabha election. A lot of this is a fallout of the BJP’s crushing propaganda machine that predicts its own victory so overwhelmingly from every media outlet that several opposition politicians are scrambling to board the gravy train.

Nevertheless, States like Gujarat or Assam seem to offer little scope to even analyse the opposition’s chances. And the Congress has lost enormous ground in north India, failing to even retain its pocket boroughs. Given this, the BJP’s prime challenge in the election will probably be mounted by regional parties, whom it will face head-to-head in more than 350 seats.

Together, these 12 States account for 369 seats in the Lok Sabha: no mean number.

Together, these 12 States account for 369 seats in the Lok Sabha: no mean number.

That the BJP realises this is where the potential challenge lies is seen from the alliance spree it has embarked upon. In Bihar, it has teamed up with the Janata Dal (United), the Hindustan Awam Morcha, and the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party; in Uttar Pradesh, with the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the Apna Dal, the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, and the Nishad Party; in Andhra Pradesh with the Telugu Desam Party and the JanaSena Party. In Punjab, it is aggressively wooing old ally Shiromani Akali Dal.

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In the past, governments at the Centre have been formed by regional coalitions although they could not complete their terms, whether the National Front led by V.P. Singh and Chandra Shekhar (1989-91) or the United Front led by H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral (1996-98). In fact, in 1996, the regional parties for the first time secured more than 50 per cent of the total votes polled, a phenomenon repeated in 2004 and 2014. It is after this that regional parties began to call the shots in the UPA-I and UPA-II governments led by the Congress.

While the INDIA formulation is a broad-based anti-BJP alliance, its individual components are very strong in their own States. As political analyst Sharat Pradhan told Frontline, “In Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Bihar, the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Trinamool Congress, and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) respectively are way ahead of the Congress. The main contest will be between these players and the BJP.” The challenge then will be to prevent any split in the anti-BJP vote.

In 2019, the Congress’ strike rate in 202 Lok Sabha seats in one-to-one contests with the BJP was only 8 per cent (16 seats). This suggests that the Congress should focus on 125-150 seats, leaving nearly three-fourth of the Lok Sabha seats to the regional parties. The Congress looks independently strong in States like Karnataka, Telangana, Kerala, and Punjab. But elsewhere, it is others who hold the key: the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (M.K. Stalin, Tamil Nadu), the Trinamool (Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal), the AAP (Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi and Punjab), the SP (Akhilesh Yadav, UP), the RJD (Lalu Prasad-Tejashwi Yadav, Bihar), the Nationalist Congress Party and the Shiv Sena (Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray, Maharashtra), and the YSR Congress (Jagan Mohan Reddy, Andhra Pradesh).

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In other words, the BJP might not have the walkover that is widely predicted. In the following stories, the Frontline team focusses on 12 States where one can expect some excitement in the electoral battle. Together, they account for 369 seats in the Lok Sabha. No mean number.

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