With exit polls varying widely in their projection of seats for the BJP, much will depend on the party’s show in Hindi heartland states, especially Uttar Pradesh, to determine if its final tally comes near its current numbers or falls much short.
Riding on its superlative win in five key Hindi-speaking states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the BJP had notched up its maiden majority in the Lok Sabha in the 2014 polls by bagging 165 of the 185 seats at stake there, a strike rate of nearly 90 per cent.
Most of the exit polls have forecast the BJP to be much ahead of the opposition in states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, while the Congress is seen to be running it close in Chhattisgarh.
However, they have projected diametrically opposite numbers for the BJP and its rival SP-BSP alliance in Uttar Pradesh, with the saffron party being given anywhere between 33 to 65 seats of the state’s 80 seats.
Different exit polls suggest that the BJP could end up winning only 89 seats in the five states if the grimmest forecast of its tally comes true. But its final tally may zoom to 144 if the most optimistic prediction turns out to be correct on counting day on May 23.
The formidable caste arithmetic in the support of the SP-BSP alliance has posed a strong challenge to the BJP in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh.
However, BJP leaders are of the view that the party’s expected losses in some states will be made up with gains in West Bengal and Odisha to propel it beyond the majority mark of 272 seats again.
Exit polls have been unanimous in predicting another term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with some forecasting a majority for the BJP on its own.
When the Lok Sabha poll campaign began, many observers were of the view that the BJP will find it difficult to repeat its 2014 success in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh- where it had 62 of the total 65 seats- after losing power in the three states to the Congress in 2018.
BJP leaders have, however, insisted that support for Modi combined with the three state governments’ “unimpressive” performance has swung the electoral pendulum in the saffron party’s favour.
BJP president Amit Shah has asserted that his party will repeat its sweep of the three states and also do better and not any worse than its previous show in Uttar Pradesh.
May 23 will tell.