BJP eyes cutting clout of regional queens
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was set to make gains in two big states in the south and east that voted yesterday in the sixth phase of a mammoth general election that could help it build a stable majority in parliament.
A final set of opinion polls predicted a strong showing by the BJP and its allies in Tamil Nadu in the south and West Bengal in the east that could make it less dependent on the two women who rule those states and who have in the past proved to be fickle coalition partners.
The Hindu nationalist-led opposition, led by prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, is riding a wave of public anger across India against the ruling Congress party over a slew of corruption scandals and a slowing economy.
His party is looking to make a dent in the south and east to pull off an outright majority, something that no party has been able to achieve in nearly two decades.
"This election we are expecting a significant contribution from the south," said former BJP president Venkaiah Naidu, adding that the party wanted to lift its southern tally to 50 seats from 19 in the last election in 2009.
A regional party led by Jayaram Jayalalitha, the powerful chief minister of Tamil Nadu, is expected to win the most seats, but not enough to sweep the state .
In West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee's party is expected to win the most seats at stake in the state.
Both Jayalalitha and Mamata are seen as belonging to parties to which Modi could turn in case he falls short of a majority in the national vote.
However, both are likely to extract their pound of flesh. In Mamata's case, her left-leaning policies may run counter to Modi's reformist instincts.