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BJP’s feverish Bengal push and what it means for 2024, and all about new magic number 119

In episode 637 of #CutTheClutter, Shekhar Gupta looks at election data to highlight how BJP is using state polls to prepare for 2024 general elections.

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New Delhi: BJP national president J.P. Nadda has launched the party’s election campaign in West Bengal, much ahead of time. This follows the grand show by prominent BJP leaders, including Home Minister Amit Shah, at Hyderabad’s civic polls where the party was fairly successful.

In episode 637 of ‘Cut The Clutter’, ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta looks at data and underlines how all of this is BJP’s preparation for a basket of 119 seats in the Lok Sabha in 2024 general elections.

Lok Sabha has 543 seats and 272 is the halfway mark. In the last two elections, the party has got a full majority.

“But BJP looks at politics way ahead,” Gupta said.

He looks at the 119 seats in the Lok Sabha that will be crucial to the BJP. These include 42 seats in West Bengal, 21 in Odisha, 25 in Andhra Pradesh, 17 in Telangana and 14 in Assam.

Of these, the BJP has 18 seats in West Bengal, 8 in Odisha, 4 in Telangana, 9 in Assam and zero in Andhra Pradesh. Therefore, in total, the party has just 39 out of the 119 seats.

These states are crucial because the party is more likely to make inroads here than in states like Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu where such a possibility is scarce. Furthermore, in a state like Maharashtra, the situation is unpredictable.

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BJP’s vote-share in different states

Gupta said, “BJP is trying to build cushioning, for which they have to aim to increase their number from 39 to much more out of this 119 as these are the seats where BJP will see an opportunity of increasing its numbers unlike in the states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Punjab.”

He added that the BJP is looking “frantic” in West Bengal this election because it had proved in the 2016 assembly elections that it was a strong force in the state.

In 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the party won 18 out of the 42 seats while Mamata Banerjee’s TMC won 22. The Congress was left with one seat and the Left Front did not win a single seat in the state.

“Political analysis later showed that the TMC hijacked the Congress while the BJP is hijacking the Left in West Bengal,” Gupta said.

In Odisha, the Biju Janata Dal won 12 of the 21 seats, the BJP won 8 and Congress secured only one seat.

Gupta noted that Congress used to be “number two” in both these states.

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Telangana and Assam

After the Hyderabad municipal elections, Telangana has also come into focus. Amit Shah had campaigned in Hyderabad and the BJP emerged as the second-largest party in the city where it had no presence historically.

In Telangana, BJP won four seats out of the 17 in the last parliamentary elections, Congress got three. In Andhra Pradesh, both BJP and Congress got zero seats. This is ironic since the Congress used to be very powerful in Andhra Pradesh. And now, BJP is eyeing the state.

“BJP sees Chandrababu Naidu and YSRCP (Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s party) as rivals,” Gupta said.

In Assam, BJP won nine seats, and it is a crucial state as it is bound for polls after West Bengal.

“Some of the issues and some of the approaches that BJP will employ in Assam are very similar to that of West Bengal — polarisation, since both states have a high Muslim population,” Gupta said.

“Asom Gana Parishad is totally compromised with the BJP, they have been used and more or less discarded by the BJP,” Gupta said.

In all these states, BJP is moving into a vacuum left by the Congress and there is no national party to fight it.

“All of them (regional leaders) have to find a way of bringing the opposition together or if you go by the history of politics in India, bringing the opposition together around one central core, which can only be the Congress party. It (Congress) also has a 20 per cent vote bank,” Gupta said.

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  1. Polarisation for Assam and Bengal … That may pay electoral dividends. However, does not set the foundation for development and prosperity.

  2. This 119 is a contrived number, as if 272 and 80 are guaranteed for BJP. What Shri Shekhar Gupta could have simply said is the need for and the plan of BJP to venture into those states where its footprint is less.

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