Kolkata: As per the Lok Sabha election schedule, announced by the Election Commission here on Sunday, many states where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been making effort to expand its base or where it faces tough contest will go for a multi-phased contest, giving the party time to carry out a concerted campaign to improve its prospects.
Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, which together account for 162 Lok Sabha seats, will have seven-phased elections. Odisha, which sends 21 members to the Lok Sabha, will see four-phased elections. This the first time that Odisha will have multi-phased elections.
These four states together account for one-third of the Lok Sabha seats.
In UP, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats and where the BJP did exceedingly well in 2014 elections by winning 71 seats on its own (two were won by its ally Apna Dal), the party faces combined challenge of the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal. These three parties have forged an alliance to take on the BJP.
The Congress, which is fighting the polls on its own in the state, has also injected new energy in its efforts by appointing Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as general secretary incharge of eastern UP.
In Bihar that elects 40 MPs, the ruling alliance of the BJP, the Janata Dal-United and the Lok Janshakti Party faces a tough contest with a combined opposition that includes the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Congress, the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, the Hindustani Awami Morcha and some other parties.
The BJP has been paying a lot of focus to West Bengal to emerge as the main opponent of the ruling Trinamool Congress. The party is hoping to improve its performance beyond the two Lok Sabha seats it won in the state in 2014.
Odisha (21 seats) is another state where the BJP has been making serious efforts to gain ground. The Congress has not been able to put up a strong fight over the past few elections against the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD).
The BJP hopes good performance in West Bengal and Odisha will help it compensate for losses in the Hindi heartland states where it performed remarkably well in the last Lok Sabha elections. Three of these — Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan — are now ruled by the Congress.
Two other states where BJP is trying to expand its footprint — Kerala and Tamil Nadu — will have a single-phase election.
In Tamil Nadu, the BJP is part of alliance led by the AIADMK. In Telangana, the BJP is trying to grow on its own but the Congress is the main rival of the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). The BJP can expect support from the TRS if it falls short of numbers to form the government.
In Andhra Pradesh, the BJP is preparing to fight the multi-cornered contest on its own though there have been speculation about the party looking for tieup with a regional party.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the main vote catcher of the BJP, has run a concerted campaign in the past elections and can go for a phase-wise campaign in different states to boost party’s prospect.