Buoyed by its spectacular performance that saw it register win on 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP, the BJP has now set its eyes on the 2017 Assembly elections where, based on its own assessment, it will target to win 350 seats, just 10 shy of the total seats it won in the last four elections combined.
This ambitious jump, however, is not unfounded. In the just-concluded LS polls, the party came first (in terms of votes polled), in 328 assembly segments.
And to ensure that 350 just not remain a dream, the party’s state unit has, once again, turned to its in-charge Amit Shah, the man largely believed to be responsible for changing the BJP’s fortune in the state in the recent election.
“We will start work for 2017 elections a day after (Prime Minister-elect) Modiji’s oath ceremony (on May 26). We have set a target of winning at least 350 seats (of the total 403 seats),” said Laxmikant Bajpai, party’s state president.
Several BJP’s state leaders, however, believe that the major responsibility will still lie on Modi. “BJP has got clear majority in Lok Sabha only because of the Modi wave. Our party dismantled SP’s appeasement politics and BSP’s caste politics by (Modi’s) development-oriented politics in Lok Sabha polls,” said Chandra Mohan, UP BJP spokesperson. The party also indicated that Modi is likely to include an SC leader from the state in his government to capitalise on the dent it managed to create in BSP’s Dalit votebank.
The results of the past UP Assembly elections, however, do not augur well for the saffron party, with its seat-share witnessing a steady decline since posing its best record in 1991 when it won 221 seats, owing primarily to the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. In the following state elections, the BJP’s record stands as follows: 174 seats in 1996; 88 seats in 2002; 51 seats in 2007; and 47 seats in 2012.
But for 2017, says Bajpai, “the party will raise the failures of the SP and BSP governments and their wrong policies before the public”.
It will, however, find in BSP its biggest hurdle, even though the Mayawati-led party recorded its poorest performance in the Lok Sabha polls with ‘zero’ seats. The BSP hurdle arises from the fact that its vote percentage saw an increase as compared to 2009, with its candidates turning runner-up on maximum 34 seats. Furthermore, the anti-incumbency is likely to help the BSP because it is the local issues that decide the fate of state elections and this past decade shows voters’ preference tilting considerably in the favour of regional parties.
Meanwhile, the BJP will have to contest the by-elections on 12 seats in UP that fell vacant after 11 of its MLAs and one of Apna Dal moved to Lok Sabha after their win.