A BJP supporter listens to a speech during a protest against the Election Commission (EC) in New Delhi, yesterday. BJP workers protested against the denial of permission for BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to hold a rally at a venue of his choice in Varanasi and requested the EC to remove the Electoral Officer of Varanasi. Photo: AFP
Officially, India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, led by its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, has been maintaining that National Democratic Alliance led by it will secure majority in national elections which is in its last lap.
But after completion of eight of the nine phases of polling, concerns appear to persist in certain quarters of the party that it may fall well short of the half way mark of 272 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, lower House of bicameral parliament.
So, is BJP cagey? Some analysts interpret Modi's aggressive use of caste identity politics and Hindutva, as manifested in his playing his own backward caste and raising a high pitch on Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh as BJP's apprehensions that BJP may not achieve the majority mark.
Modi's interpretation of Priyanka Gandhi's attack on him through the words “neech rajniti”(low-level politics) as a dig at his backward caste, use of a huge portrait of Lord Rama as a backdrop at a Modi rally in Faizabad near Ayodhya and Modi aide Amit Shah's description of Azamgarh, a Muslim-dominated area of India's largest state of Uttar Pradesh, as a “den of terrorists” in the last four to five days—all this is seen as a departure from BJP's use of development plank in the first six to seven phases of the long-drawn elections.
This change of campaign strategy and in electoral discourse came just before the last two phases of polling as BJP and Modi pushed for an aggressive burst of electioneering with as many as 105 parliamentary seats going to the poll on May 7 and May 12.
One can understand the change in BJP's change in strategy as backward caste factor and Muslim voters will play a major role in the 15 seats in central part of Uttar Pradesh and seven seats in northern part of Bihar, where polling was held on Wednesday.
On May 12, together with the 18 seats of eastern UP, six in the adjoining areas in Bihar are going to polls.
The outcome of polling Uttar Pradesh (with a total of 80 seats) and Bihar (total 40 seat) in phase eight and nine could well make it a make-or-break case for BJP eyeing to get back to power nationally.
During the past two decades, BJP has gradually lost out to regional outfits in Uttar Pradesh Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which consolidated their hold over backward and extremely backward caste vote banks and has been reduced to a marginal player in the political landscape of the state considered crucial electorally as it has the largest number of parliamentary seats.
In the 2009 parliamentary polls, BJP had won just four of the 18 seats in eastern part of UP and only one of the six seats in adjoining areas of Bihar and this time the party is eyeing to recapture socially and economically backward caste votes. The extent of BJP's success will depend on how much it can make a dent in SP and BSP vote banks.
With Muslims perceived to be backing BSP in seats going to the poll in the last two phases of this year's elections, BJP's Hindutva card was essential to attract Hindu votes cutting across caste barriers through polarisation. Ground reports suggest BJP may find it difficult to do that but if it happens, SP could be badly hit in Uttar Pradesh.
BJP had fared poorly in central and eastern parts of UP in 2009 when it could manage just four of the 33 seats going to polls in the last two phases of polling today and the last phase on May 12.