New Delhi: Insiders in the BJP appear to be acutely conscious of the fact that crossing the majority threshold will not be easy this time, unlike in the last election when the party got an emphatic 282 seats on its own, 10 more than the magic mark. “If we get 271 seats on our own, we will be very happy,” BJP general secretary Ram Madhav has said in an interview with Bloomberg News. ‘‘However, with NDA allies, we will have a comfortable majority,” he said, referring to the distinct possibility of a coalition government.
The comments by Madhav—a key interlocutor in the BJP’s political initiatives in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast—are significant as he is the first BJP leader to publicly suggest the party may fall short of its 2014 numbers. Borrowed from the RSS in July 2014 after Narendra Modi took over as PM, Ram Madhav (54) has been the RSS spokesman for over a decade before accepting the political assignment in the BJP.
Madhav admits that the diminishing returns have set in the Hindi heartland but the party will offset the expected losses with gains in the northeast, as well as in West Bengal and Odisha. The South has been virtually written off, barring Karnataka, the only state across the Vindhyas where the BJP is a force to be reckoned with. “We have expanded in eastern India very well — if similar effort had been put into south India also, probably we would have been more comfortable,” Madhav said. “As politicians, we must remember that what we achieved last time, we may not repeat because of anti-incumbency.”
This projection is at variance with what senior party leaders, including BJP president Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley, have claimed. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been claiming in his rallies that the BJP is on course to record a bigger victory than in 2014. Home Minister Rajnath Singh had claimed last month after three phases of polling that the NDA would get a two-thirds majority. The thrust of Madhav’s disclosure is that despite the marathon election campaign, the BJP faces the prospect of emerging as a single largest party, but one that is short of majority. That raises the spectre of a coalition, but the final outcome as to who forms the government would also depend on the performance of allies like the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal.
Amid projections that the NDA may find it difficult to form the next government — with elections over in 425 of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies on Monday – efforts appear to have begun to cobble up a non-BJP, non-Congress front. Taking the first step in this regard was Telangana Chief Minister and TRS leader K Chandrashekar Rao, who met Kerala Chief Minister and CPI-M leader Pinarayi Vijayan in Thiruvananthapuram, ostensibly over “dinner”.This will be KCR’s first meeting with any leader of a non-BJP and non-Congress party since the Lok Sabha elections began on April 11. Among other leaders on his itinerary is DMK supremo M.K. Stalin, whom he is scheduled to meet in Chennai on May 13, the Telangana Chief Minister’s office said in Hyderabad. Meanwhile, the Congress is putting its might in the Lok Sabha election campaign in the national capital with party chief Rahul Gandhi scheduled to address three rallies and party General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra scheduled to hold two road shows.