If there is one thing that characterizes Modi’s new BJP, it is a relentless pursuit of victory. No sooner had the party received a positive signal from Odisha panchayat polls, the BJP’s armies have turned out in full force to lay seige to Bhubaneswar. You have to give the party an A+ for effort.
Part of this is driven by Amit Shah’s stated effort to make the BJP dominate everywhere from panchayat to parliament. But, underlying the BJP’s frantic efforts is also the calculation that 2019 is well nigh impossible without a big haul from virgin territory in the east.
It is not hard to see that the BJP will be the single largest party in 2019. That debate was settled in 2014 itself. The problem is hitting the 272 seat mark on its own. Because the way things are shaping up, BJP will find itself on the opposition benches if they fall even 1 seat short of the majority mark. So terrifying has been the BJP’s rise that every other party in the country has been pushed beyond desperation to stem the wave.
So, I have resolved today to perform a rough calculation, taking into account all the Mahagathbandhans that might be around in 2019. I suspect there could even be a Sena + NCP + Cong mahagathbandhan, but it seems Devendra Fadnavis is making deft moves to prevent it.
Let’s start. The BJP has 282 Lok Sabha seats right now. It can afford to lose just 10 seats.
Tight. Very tight.
First let us take the direct Congress vs BJP states. Thankfully, mahagathbandhans have no effect here : Gujarat, Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh. If we assume an attrition of 2 seats in each of these states, we are down 8 seats.
I am assuming that the BJP will retain its tallies in the small states of Delhi, Himachal, Uttarakhand and Goa.
Now let us come to the first state where the BJP will face a mahagathbandhan. That would be Bihar. The BJP’s tally could sink in Bihar from 21 to 10 or so. Let’s assume we lose another 10 seats in Bihar.
Uttar Pradesh next. Here a mahagathbandhan could cost the BJP as many as 35 Lok Sabha seats. Huge huge hit!
So, where are we now? An estimated loss of 53 seats. How many can we afford to lose? Just 10. The BJP therefore needs to offset some 45 seats in order to make it to 272.
Where can these 45 seats come from?
Thankfully, there are some blanks on the map. The first place is Karnataka, where the BJP had won 17 out of the 28 seats in 2014. The BJP has to sweep Karnataka in 2019. Let’s say it does: this will add some 6-7 seats.
Where next? Thankfully, there is Odisha, with its 21 seats on offer. The BJP needs to make a massive splash here and fish out a minimum of 11 of the state’s 21 seats. Can they do it? I don’t know, but without these seats the BJP would most likely be toast.
A large part of whether the BJP can score 272 in 2019 will depend on how many seats it can win in Bengal. Just to remind people, Bengal happens to be the third largest state in the union after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. Could the BJP gain 10 seats from Bengal? That’s the bare minimum it needs.
This adds up to around 25 new seats. The BJP needs 45 new seats in 2019 to reach the 272 mark. Where will these 20 new seats come from? Your guess is as good as mine. The BJP could sneak out 2-3 seats in Kerala if it tries hard and maybe another couple from Telangana. The North East could come through for another couple of seats. That’s about it.
We’re still falling some 10 seats short of the 272 mark. At least.
Personally, I feel the moment has come for the BJP to pull off a Machiavellian move with respect to Mayawati. Her party has been shrunk to a mere 19 seats. In the past, the BJP has successfully absorbed many Dalit forces like Paswan, Athavale and Udit Raj. Perhaps it is time for the BJP to do something about the BSP. Offer Mayawati a perch and a small role in the NDA dispensation. She has been out of power since 2012. Next year, she is scheduled to lose even her Rajya Sabha seat. Her Lok Sabha representation is already down to zero.
It is time for BJP to make Mayawati an offer that she can’t refuse. 10 Lok Sabha seats offered to Mayawati in 2019 can give the BJP 70 seats from Uttar Pradesh. If you ask me, it’s worth the tradeoff.