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The other India: 3 states where BJP’s lotus didn’t bloom

After sealing its phenomenal electoral victory, the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) crossed the 300 mark and surpassed its seat tally of 282 in 2014. The BJP has maintained it’s near dominance in the northern and western regions of the country. It has won all Lok Sabha seats in of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. In Madhya Pradesh it has won 28 out of 29 seats.

In Maharashtra, the BJP and its ally Shiv Sena has repeated their 2014 performance, winning 41 out of 48 seats. The biggest of them is Uttar Pradesh, where the party’s tally has come down from 71 to 62 between 2014 and 2019. But in the Andhra Pradesh elections, which were all about YSRCP versus TDP, both the BJP and the Congress were decimated. In the South, the BJP could not open its account in Kerala, where Congress bagged 15 of the 20 seats, the grand old party’s only saving grace as their party chief managed to hold on to the Wayanad seat with record margin, after losing the family borough Amethi to BJP’s Smriti Irani in a see-saw battle. Up north, it was only Punjab that held its own, even against the nationalism narrative of the BJP despite being a state bordering Pakistan and having lived through the partition.

The BJP rode on a massive saffron surge sweeping through most parts of India. The BJP-led NDA government became the only non-Congress government to return to power in the Indian political history. After Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, Narendra Modi also became the third prime minister of India who retained power for a second term with full majority in Lok Sabha.

But while BJP performed pretty well, there were states where the saffron party managed to win only 2 seats or even drew a blank. In Andhra Pradesh, as per Election Commission of India (ECI) data, the party has drawn a blank in the 25 Lok Sabha and 175 Assembly constituencies. The party’s vote share of 0.90% (2,17,814 votes) is lower than the 1.50% (3,65,726) polled by the None-Of-The-Above (NOTA).

The hopes of the BJP-led NDA to ride piggyback on the Sabarimala women entry issue came a cropper in Kerala, with the front failing to open its account once again in the state. Kerala held on to its record of never having sent a BJP MP to the Lok Sabha. The BJP might not have succeeded in breaking a long-standing “political curse” of not winning a Parliament seat from Kerala but significantly enough, the party crossed the three-lakh threshold in Thiruvananthapuram and notched up over close to 3 lakh votes in two other constituencies, not to mention the incremental increases it made in several others.

In Tamil Nadu, the DMK made a comeback with 23 of the 38 seats in contention, as voting was cancelled for the Vellore seat. Congress won 8, while the AIADMK managed only one. While the BJP could not open its account in the state, the others got 6. In Tamil Nadu it was a mix of Dravidian politics, anti-Modi sentiment and skilful coalition management by DMK chief M.K. Stalin that prevented the BJP from retaining even the one it had last time.

It was not just blanks. BJP performed poorly in Punjab as well. Major upsets in the poll outcome were Union minister and BJP nominee Hardeep Singh Puri, Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar and SAD candidate Prem Singh Chandumajra. Akali Dal managed to win only two seats against four it pocketed in last general election. BJP won Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur but failed again to break the “jinx” of not winning Amritsar. SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, Bollywood actor Sunny Deol, Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, former Union ministers Manish Tewari and Preneet Kaur, and Ravneet Singh Bittu were among the prominent leaders who won in Punjab.

The Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the earlier avatar of the Bharatiya Janata Party, that was founded in 1951, emerged as a spokesperson for the Hindus and made the Hindi heartland its base. For a newbie, it achieved creditable success in state and Lok Sabha polls between 1952 and 1967. Its slogan was “one country, one nation, one culture and the rule of law”. It appeared to be a popular slogan and it showed in the party membership which rose to nearly 20 lakh by the end of the 1960s.

The BJP and, before that, the BJS were evidently long-term players. That explains why the party has expanded, over time, from the Hindi heartland to the Northeast where it had never been in power before this, and now to Odisha and West Bengal. The next project, very clearly, is the conquest of southern India, where it has only had a government in Karnataka and had NDA partners from Tamil Nadu.