State polls: For BJP, there is no place to go but up
In three of the four states currently in the midst of elections, the BJP is at best a fringe player and that is unlikely to change substantially this time. But that does provide an interesting political safety net to the BJP nevertheless.
With zero seats in West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, even a single-digit increase in seat numbers will lead to 'Lotus blooms' headlines. So for once the BJP seems safe from the standard 'Is the Modi wave over?’ question.
In West Bengal, the BJP scored a grand duck in 2011. They did gain the Basirhat Dakshin seat via a by-poll in 2014, but Shamik Bhattacharya won by a mere 2000 votes.
Like in 2014, the BJP tried to frame a 'Modi vs. Mamata' narrative, but the Left - rising on a tide of middle-class support and police brutality allegations - has retained the position of primary opposition.
All opposition in Bengal faces an uphill task either way. Though bribery stings and the Kolkata flyover collapse have rattled Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress (TMC) on the eve of voting, there has been no perceptible movement against the TMC per se.
All is not lost for the BJP though. The RSS has been actively campaigning In Bengal's border districts, which might provide a few gains for the BJP, even though the primary fight is out of their hands.
Kerala is slightly more optimistic for the Saffron party. The BJP has tried to set up a 'united Hindu' front in the state, but the ground realities of inter-caste rivalries in Kerala seem to clash with this plan.
Kerala is slightly more optimistic for the Saffron party. The BJP has tried to set up a 'united Hindu' front in the state, but the ground realities of inter-caste rivalries in Kerala seem to clash with this plan
However, the BJP’s vote share in the state has been steadily rising, going past the psychologically key 10% mark in 2015. The Congress appeals to Muslims and Christians, the CPI (M) to backwards castes. That still leaves a large chunk for the BJP. If the BJP’s aggressive wooing of the Ezhavas pays off even in a limited manner, the BJP will make significant gains. If the BJP wins more than one seat, they can call it a win.
Assam is the only state expected to swing to the BJP. In 2011, the BJP played up the issue of Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, but that did not stop Congress' Tarun Gogoi from sweeping back to power for the third time.
This time around, the Congress is expected to be hurt by the Muslim swing towards the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF). The Congress is not very strong on its own merits either. For example - at 81, Tarun Gogoi is still their CM candidate.
The BJP, on the other hand, has run a more focused campaign than the one that Bihar saw last year, including running under a pre-announced CM candidate - Sarbananda Sonowal. There is a strong anti-incumbency wave, and with the AIUDF splitting the vote, the BJP is all set to make the strongest gains.
Tamil Nadu is where the BJP is still in the ‘baby steps’ phase. The game in Tamil Nadu is limited to vote share rather than outright victories. Coimbatore is a small bright spot, with talks of 'smart city' status emerging as a rare talking point for the BJP besides the usual 'give us a chance' speeches. Other than that, the BJP has appealed mainly to Brahmins, who have been the bogeymen of the Dravida parties for decades.
There is no real hope of beating Amma this time around - not even the DMK is that optimistic, though the battle between the AIADMK and the DMK is expected to be a tight one.
All the BJP needs is one seat.