Opinion: Lok Sabha Polls: Congress Faces A Massive BJP Wall In Phase 3

In 2019, the BJP had won 71 of the 93 Lok Sabha seats going to the polls in Phase 3 this time, while the Congress got only four.

May 6, 2024 - 16:45
Opinion: Lok Sabha Polls: Congress Faces A Massive BJP Wall In Phase 3
Latest and Breaking News on NDTV

As many as 93 seats across 11 states will go to polls in the third phase of Lok Sabha elections on May 7. Going by 2019 data, a majority of seats in this phase are Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) strongholds. The party had won 71 of these 93 Lok Sabha seats back then, while the Congress got only four. The states that will vote in this phase include Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh - all three of which are BJP bastions. The Congress will thus have to make a severe dent in the party's tally to maintain its prospects.

Four seats in Assam, five in Bihar, seven in Chhattisgarh, two each in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, and Goa, 25 in Gujarat, 14 in Karnataka, nine in Madhya Pradesh, 11 in Maharashtra, 10 in Uttar Pradesh and four in West Bengal will be voting on May 7. Surat, which was scheduled to vote in this phase, has already been won uncontested by the BJP. 

High-Profile Contests

With Amit Shah contesting from Gandhinagar, Dimple Yadav from Mainpuri, Jyotiraditya Scindia from Guna, Digvijay Singh from Rajgarh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan from Vidisha, Mansukh Mandaviya from Porbandar, Pralhad Joshi from Dharwad and Supriya Sule fighting from Baramati, there are a few high-profile contests in order.

At 81 out of 93, the BJP is contesting the maximum seats from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Similarly, from the INDIA bloc, the Congress will fight in 68 seats. In 2019, the NDA had won 78 of the total 93 seats, while the current constituents of the INDIA bloc together got 12. Other parties won three seats. The NDA's average victory margin of 21% was much higher than that of the INDIA bloc's 11%. 

The BJP won 38 seats with a 50-60% vote share in the last election, 20 seats with a 60-70% vote share, and two seats with an over 70% votes. The Congress thus needs a big swing in its favour. 

Read | Lok Sabha Polls 2024: Blow To Congress As 200 Members Join BJP In Gujarat

Turnout is going to be a key factor as the first two phases saw a drop in polling by around 3 percentage points. In 2019, of the 62 seats in which the turnout had declined, the winner changed for 14 seats. In contrast, of the 31 seats that saw higher voting, the incumbent lost in nine.

The West Bengal Battleground

In West Bengal, the electoral contest moves to the Malda region, which has a high minority population (Malda, Murshidabad, Jangipur). This is a traditional Congress stronghold, though the party won only the Malda Dakshin seat in 2019. Due to a split of votes between the Congress and the Trinamool, the BJP ended up getting the Malda Uttar seat.

This time, the Congress-Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) alliance is vying for the minority vote here. In the last Lok Sabha election, the Trinamool got 63% of the Muslim vote and the Congress-CPI(M) alliance got 16%. The impact of the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) could be visible here. 

The Gujarat Fortress

Gujarat is the BJP's fortress, and the 'Gujarati asmita' plays a key role here as both the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister Amit Shah hail from the state. The real question is whether the party can score a hat-trick of 26-0 this year, riding on its strong performance in the assembly polls in 2022. On 18 seats, the BJP won with a lead of over 2.5 lakh votes; its victory in all seats was with an over 50% vote share. While the all-India lead of the BJP over the Congress is 19% in terms of vote share, in Gujarat, that number is a whopping 30%. 

Read | In Gujarat, BJP's Richest Candidate Has Assets Worth Rs 147 Crore

However, there is some unease within the Kshatriya/Rajput community over Union Minister Parshottam Rupala's statements, who is contesting from Rajkot. As many as 65% Rajputs voted for the BJP in 2019. The discontent has given an opportunity to the Congress to revive its KHAM (Kshtriya-Harijan-Adivasi-Muslim) vote bank. The Congress has formed an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which had dented the former's vote share in the 2022 Assembly elections. As per ground reports, Banaskantha, Rajkot and Valsad are witnessing close contests. 

Various Factors At Play In UP

In Uttar Pradesh, the battle will involve a few seats in the Western part of the state and the Yadav belt. In 2019, the Samajwadi Party (SP), with a stronger Mahagathbandhan alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), won two of the 10 seats that are going to polls this time. The Congress cannot be expected to replace the BSP in the alliance. Over 70% of Muslims, Yadavs and Jatavs had backed the Mahagathbandan in 2019. This time around, the Jatav support could see a dent, which could go back to the BSP as it contests separately. 

In Etah, the BJP has won more times than the SP. Kalyan Singh won once from here in 2009, though that was in an alliance with the SP. Mainpuri is an SP stronghold too. Both these seats have strong Scheduled Caste and Yadav populations. In the previous election, the average vote share of the BJP here was 54%, while the Mahagathbandhan's was 37%. The Jat factor will also come into play in a few seats given the BJP's tie-up with Jayant Chaudhary's Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). 

Karnataka And The Shadow Of Prajwal Revanna Scandal

As many as 14 seats of Northern and Central Karnataka go to polls, of which the BJP had swept all in 2019. While Bombay Karnataka has a big Lingayat population, Hyderabad Karnataka, from where Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge comes (Gulbarga), has a considerable SC-ST population. With the return of Jagadish Shettar and the appointment of B.S. Yediyurappa's son as the state unit's president, the BJP hopes to get back a section of Lingayat votes that had moved to the Congress in the 2023 assembly election.
The Prajwal Revanna sexual harassment case looms large over the electoral contest here and has been a subject of intense discussion even though the Janata Dal (Secular) is not contesting any seat in this phase. The party got a crucial 7% votes here in 2019. The Congress hopes that the controversy will consolidate its support among women, which is already strong due to the state government's implementation of various guarantees. Karnataka is one of the few states where the Congress hopes to make a significant dent in the BJP's tally. 

New Leadership In Madhya Pradesh; Family Feuds In Maharashtra

With a new Chief Minister and with Shivraj Singh Chouhan tied to Vidisha, the Madhya Pradesh BJP unit hopes to maintain its winning streak under a new leadership. The Congress, which has put up old warhorses like Digvijay Singh and Kantilal Bhuria, is also aiming to pull a few seats, banking on local anti-incumbency against MPs. The BJP had won a record term with 166 seats in the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections last year.

In Maharashtra, family feuds animate the contest for the Baramati seat as Supriya Sule faces off against her sister-in-law and Ajit Pawar's wife Sunetra Pawar. In 2019, the NDA won seven of the 11 seats going to the polls this time, while four went to INDIA partners. Uddhav and Sharad Pawar's alliance is contesting on eight of these 11 seats this time, while Shinde and Ajit Pawar's party on five. The state is seeing a battle of legacies.

In total, of these 93 seats going to the polls, the BJP had won 46 even in 2009, when it lost the overall Lok Sabha elections. The Congress, meanwhile, could muster just 27. This sums up the mammoth challenge that the Congress needs to face in order to spring a surprise this year. 

(Amitabh Tiwari is a political strategist and commentator. In his earlier avatar, he was a corporate and investment banker.)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.

Voice Team We covers wide range of topics, from startups and small businesses to multinational corporations, finance, marketing, technology, and more.