Getting the party’s planning for 2019 general elections under way, a core committee meeting chaired by BJP president Amit Shah has identified around 115 seats as the party’s “new catchment area.”
The BJP leadership’s assessment is that the party will not be able to retain many seats in its strongholds, and is thus zooming in on these seats from seven states, where it is trying to emerge as an alternative, sources said.
The seats identified are from Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the Northeast. Party leaders with knowledge of the development said BJP general secretaries and secretaries in charge of these state are expected to prepare state-specific strategies and submit them to Shah before October 16.
According to sources, the BJP leadership realises it will be difficult to hold on to the party’s position in many states, especially in the Hindi heartland. “The party has to (thus) work on new states to win seats. The BJP will also have to face anti-incumbency in Mahararashtra and Haryana,” a BJP general secretary said.
In 2014, the BJP-led NDA had won 72 of 80 seats in UP, 42 of 48 in Maharashtra, 31 of 40 in Bihar, all 26 in Gujarat, all 25 in Rajasthan, 25 of 28 in Madhya Pradesh, and seven of 10 in Haryana.
In contrast, the party won only two of 42 Lok Sabha seats in TMC-ruled West Bengal and one of 21 in BJD-ruled Odisha. Of the southern states, it won only one of 39 in Tamil Nadu, where AIADMK is in power, one seat of 17 in Telangana, and two of 25 seats in Andhra Pradesh, where the BJP is in alliance with the TDP. The BJP does not have a single Lok Sabha MP from Kerala.
Sources said BJP hopes to increase its tally in Odisha and Karnataka — although having won 18 of 28 in Karnataka in 2014, a big rise in numbers is not expected there.
With the focus moving to non-BJP bastions, the Centre too is introducing new initiatives and programmes. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already addressed three rallies in Odisha in the last two years. Hoping to reap political mileage in the Northeast, which has 25 Lok Sabha seats, Modi has directed all Union ministers to visit the state at least twice every month.