New Delhi | 20th Jul 2013
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi waves to crowd after his meeting with the businessmen in Mumbai on 26 June. PTI
ajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley, two members of the BJP's Delhi-based power quartet, are voluble in backing Narendra Modi, the newest entrant into the party's high command. The other two, L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj, are silent about the party's saffron hopes for the 2014 general elections. However, soundings within their confidants indicate that they expect a situation where the BJP gets enough seats to lead the coalition, "but fewer seats than are needed to insist that Narendra Modi be declared the Prime Minister", according to a top strategist of the party. He placed the number of seats that the BJP needed to ensure Modi's ascension to the top job as "175 at a minimum". Meanwhile, loyalists of the Gujarat strongman are aiming at 220 seats for the BJP in the next Lok Sabha. They point to indicators such as a C-Voter poll taken in Karnataka before the Assembly elections, which showed that 62% of voters backed Narendra Modi as PM, while only 25% of voters wanted the BJP to return to power in the state.
Those engaged in the "Modimatics" of poll outcomes point to states across the country to explain their confidence in the outcome. "Take Karnataka, where BJP got 20% and Yeddyurappa 10%. The BJP came to power in the previous election with just 34% of the vote," a poll strategist claimed, adding that the combination of BJP plus Yeddyurappa would push the voting percentage "to well past 35%", thereby "ensuring that BJP retain its 19 seats in the Lok Sabha if not add to them". In Bihar, another numbers cruncher calculated that the polarisation caused by the JD(U)-BJP break-up "would increase the BJP tally from 12 to 20", while in UP, "Team Modi is aiming at 35 seats in place of the 10 now". He points out that Narendra Modi has already had "detailed discussions" with party leaders popular in UP, such as Varun Gandhi, who were earlier regarded as unsympathetic to him, and that the Gujarat CM "is collecting a database of more than two lakh party activists across the state, as he is doing elsewhere".
Modimatics gives the BJP 20 Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan (up from 4), 23 seats in Gujarat (up from 17), 24 seats in MP (up from 16) and 5 in Delhi (up from zero). The tally in Uttarakhand is calculated at 4, up from a single seat in 2009. Only Chhattisgarh and Assam are likely to see a fall in the BJP tally "although by a total of four seats in both states, maximum". With his strong federalist stance, and the BJP's willingness to carve out new states, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi is considered a likely post-poll ally, its own tally being calculated at "a minimum of 13 seats, with Jagan Reddy getting about 15 in the Andhra segment". The BJP, according to these strategists, is likely to break the UPA-created "secularism barrier" with Jagan by (1) becoming the party of governance at Delhi (2) viewing his legal travails — seen as politically motivated — sympathetically and (3) fully backing him once he emerges as the largest force in the Andhra half of the state.
The federalist argument will also be used to woo Naveen Patnaik, who is calculated as being the winner of 12 seats. "Narendra Modi has come from the states and understands their plight. He will ensure proper devolution of power down the ladder of governance." The federal factor is expected to overcome the fear factor created by the Secularism Barrier against a Modi-led dispensation. They point out that the AIADMK will get "at least 25 LS seats" and that it is very unlikely that this "will ever go to the UPA". These sources expect the BJP to get "a few seats" in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, as well as a solitary seat in Kerala (Kasaragod) "because of polarization".
Turning to the BJP's allies, a senior BJP source claimed that "discussions are on with the NCP to bring that party into a BJP-MNS-NCP alliance". However, others said that "while Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navanirman Sena is welcome to join, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance will continue. The calculation is that the two will get a total of "at least 30 seats" from Maharashtra in the new Lok Sabha. As for Punjab, the Akalis are expected to get at least 7 seats, while Om Prakash Chautala has been bracketed with five and Babulal Marandi with the same number.
Very little expectation is there that either Mayawati or Mamata Banerjee will join hands with the NDA, "although they will find it difficult to go along with the UPA either".
As for the JD(U), the expectation is that there will be a post-poll split in the party, with the majority of MPs crossing over to the NDA, leaving Nitish Kumar together with his chosen partner, the Congress.
"Add to that about 9 MPs from the Northeast, Sikkim and Independents, all of whom always back the winning side, and a Modi-led NDA will have as comfortable a margin as in 1999," these sources claimed.
The All India Congress Committee headquarters would, of course, disagree.
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