As has been said many times over, the 15th Lok Sabha elections this year will be he sum total of state elections. So, let's now take a look at the BJP's poll prospects in 2009 state-wise.
Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh
We start with India's crown Jammu & Kashmir. BJP may be an untouchable in Kashmir but will most likely win both the seats in Jammu keeping in sync with its performance in the Assembly elections last year riding on the Amarnath agitation wave. Then, in the hill state of Himachal, BJP is likely to win 3 of the 4 seats riding on the development agenda of the Prem Kumar Dhumal government.
Punjab and Haryana
Punjab is not going to be so easy for the BJP - SAD combine because of Parkash Singh Badal's family politics. (Shiromani Akali Dal chief Badal is CM, his son Sukhbir Badal is Deputy CM, his nephew is finance minister. Plus, his son-in-law is there in the cabinet too. And, Sukhbir's brother-in-law (Sukhbir's wife's brother) is a minister too.). The BJP - SAD combine won 11 of the 13 seats (SAD - 8 & BJP - 3) last time. This time, they may win around 6 or 7 (BJP - 2 & SAD - 5) if the Sikh anger over Congress works in favor of the combine. In neighboring Haryana, the BJP is now allied with the INLD unlike in 2004. The Congress government of Bhupinder Singh Hooda seems quite fine on the issue of development but the alliance might just help the BJP better its score of 1 in 2004. In 2009, I predict the BJP - INLD combine to win 6 seats, with both parties sharing the honors equally.
Then, comes the NCT of Delhi. In 2004, the BJP had one just one of the seven seats. V. K. Malhotra had won the posh South Delhi Lok Sabha seat, largely due to the Punjabi vote. In fact, the victory was a foregone conclusion. But, post - delimitation, South Delhi is no longer that posh seat and has large chunks of urban villages from the erstwhile Outer Delhi constituency. And even Malhotra is no longer in the fray. But, the Sikh anger over 1984 may lead to the party winning a couple of seats this time around, especially after Jarnail Singh's shoe throwing incident at Home Minister P. Chidambaram.
UP and Uttarakhand
Before we look at Uttar Pradesh, we'll look at the other hill state of Uttarakhand that has 5 seats. Here again, CM B. C. Khanduri's development agenda will get the party at least 3 of the 5 seats. Now, we go to UP. BJP would surely love to do a 1996 or 1998 in UP. Those were the years when the Ram wave swept the state and the BJP walked away with 50 of the 80 seats. Now, there is no such Ram wave. But, there are other factors that will favor the BJP. Firstly, the Brahmin - Dalit alliance of Mayawati is beginning to show cracks. And, people have begun to see that the dalit ki beti is as good as Mulayam. The criminal - politician nexus and jungle raj, that Maya promised to replace, continue and government officials who refuse to contribute to BSP funds are murdered. This has led to disenchantment among the people. Secondly, the Congress and SP are fighting alone. Thirdly, the BJP has now a new NDA partner, the RLD that is somewhat of a force in Western UP. (RLD is contesting 7 seats.). Fourthly, Muslims are disenchanted with SP due to its alliance with Kalyan Singh and more so, because senior SP leader Azam Khan is openly in revolt. This may split the Muslim vote further between the SP, BSP and Congress and also a new group called the Ulema Council that has put up candidates in some seats. Fifthly, the so - called Varun effect may consolidate the BJP's core votebank. In light of these factors, BJP may end up winning around 20 seats bettering its 2004 tally by 10. The RLD will pitch in with 3 or 4 seats.
Bihar and Jharkhand
In the other big state of the Hindi heartland Bihar, the BJP - JD (U) alliance is expected to do well riding on the goodwill of CM Nitish Kumar who has given Bihar good governance after two decades. The JD (U) is expected to win at least 15 seats and the BJP around 7 to 8 seats. In Jharkhand, the BJP is expected to do well too after Shibu Soren's loss of credibility. The BJP is likely to win 8 of the 14 seats and the JD (U) may chip in with one or two.
Orissa, West Bengal and Assam
Then, we have Orissa. The BJP - BJD alliance has split and BJP is contesting alone. Naveen Patnaik in alliance with the Left and NCP may win around 10 of the 21 seats and the BJP will win 2 or 3 seats. Of course, the result for the BJP would have been better had the two fought together. Then, in West Bengal, Jaswant Singh may get the BJP its lone seat in this state if the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha manages to ensure his victory from Darjeeling. In West Bengal, the Congress and Mamata Bannerjee's Trinamool Congress are fighting elections together. For the first time, this Left bastion of three decades has been challenged. This time, one can expect he TMC to win around 12 seats. Post 16th, the Left and Congress are likely to have a deal leaving the TMC open to join the NDA again. After West Bengal comes Assam. In Assam, the NDA partner this time is AGP. Last time, the two had fought separately. Here again, the Muslim vote is likely to be split due to a new coalition of Muslim parties, the Assam United Democractic Front (AUDF). The tally from Assam is expected to be BJP - 5 and AGP - 5.
The other BIMARU states (Rajasthan, MP and Chattisgarh)
Ah! We suddenly moved eastwards from UP and left out two of the BIMARU states Rajasthan and MP. So, we again go back slightly westwards to Central India's Madhya Pradesh. In 2004, BJP won 25 of the 29 seats from MP. This time, it is expected to do well again barring some minor losses. This can be attributed to the low - key but hardworking CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan. I believe the BJP will win at least 20 seats this time riding on the development mantra that was demonstrated in the BJP victory in the Assembly polls last December. Same is the case with the new state of Chattisgarh. Chouhan and Chattisgarh CM Raman Singh are two of the most hardworking BJP CMs who also manage to maintain their low-key profile. The BJP won 10 of the 11 seats from Chattigarh in 2004. Now, they may win at least 8 if we account for a minor anti - incumbency that is bound to set in after 5 and a half years of a BJP state government. We head to Rajasthan now. In Rajasthan, the BJP won 21 of the 25 seats last time. This time they may win just about 10 to 12 after having lost the Assembly polls last December.
Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa
From Rajasthan, we cross over to Gujarat. This BJP bastion let the party down in 2004. BJP won just 14 of the 26 seats last time. This time, expect the party to pull up its socks and win at least 18. In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena - BJP alliance and the Congress - NCP alliance are most likely to share the spoils equally. This means, the BJP - Shiv Sena will get about 24 of the 48 seats with both parties sharing the honors almost equally. In Goa, the BJP and Congress are likely to win one seat each from the two up for grabs.
BJP's Southern Star - Karnataka
Forming the Karnataka government has been the BJP's way of shedding its baggage as a Hindi heartland party. But the question is if the BJP's star will deliver in 2009. In 2004, the BJP got 18 of the 28 seats. This time, it may get around 14 or 15. This may increase if Yeddyurappa's honeymoon with the electorate is not over yet.
Tamil Nadu (and Pondicherry)
The BJP is a marginal player in a state where being Dravidian counts. And to top it, it has no proper ally. Its allies include Subramanium Swamy and actor turned politician Sarath Kumar who are also marginal players. Safely, we can expect the Congress - DMK alliance to be battered at the hustings. And Jayalalithaa's alliance comprising of AIADMK, PMK, MDMK, CPI and CPI(M) is expected to win at least 30 of the 40 seats in TN and Pondy of which the Leftists will have 4 to 5 seats. But, the remaining 25 are with JJ, who can very well migrate to the NDA. It will also be interesting to see how actor Vijayakanth's DMDK fares in its maiden Lok Sabha election.
The BJP is unlikely to win any seats from Kerala. Here, the Congress will make gains at the expense of the Left.
This is another state where the Third Front currently exists as a 'Mahakootami' (Grand Alliance) of the Telugu Desam, Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), CPI and CPI(M). But, cracks have already appeared with the TRS attending the NDA's unity rally in Ludhiana this week. Expect the TDP to win about 20 of the 42 seats and the TRS to win about 5. While the TRS has already almost crossed over into the NDA fold knowing the BJP's track record on small states, the TDP may need some prodding before it follows suit. As a party that thrives on anti - Congressism, it cannot do business with the Congress. So, the BJP, being a marginal player, suits its agenda. Again, here, one should look out for how actor's Chiranjeevi Praja Rajyam fares in its maiden Lok Sabha election.
Rest of the Northeast and UTs
The above discussion has covered about 525 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats. It has left out the north-eastern states (except Assam) and the Union Territories (except Pondy) that account for one or two seats each. Even without discussing them, we get an almost good idea of the NDA's poll prospects.
Going by my predictions, the existing NDA (i.e. BJP, SAD, Shiv Sena, JD(U), RLD and INLD) may get around 190 seats with the BJP getting around 150. If the TDP-TRS, AIADMK - PMK - MDMK, Trinamool Congress and Biju Janata Dal decide to go back to the NDA's fold, we might have L. K. Advani at the helm of affairs. This is the only possibility for the NDA. And, even this looks difficult. Let's see why:
1. While the TRS will easily crossover, the TDP may not want to go back to the "communal" BJP. Same is the case with the Trinamool or BJD.
2. AIADMK's JJ has no such compulsions. But, she knows that she can make the DMK minority government in TN fall by just aligning with the Congress. No Article 356, No dirty play, simple withdrawal of support to the DMK government by the Congress.
But, though difficult, it is not impossible and some bargaining will definitely ensure that Mamata, Jaya, Naidu and Patnaik come on board.
Another possibility (something I don't like) is that the BJP can try and get Mayawati's BSP (with around 30 seats) on board. But, she is likely to be make quite a few unreasonable demands, that may be difficult to fulfill. She may demand to be made Deputy PM or Home Minister. And, then where would we be? I'd rather have the BJP in the Opposition than Mayawati as Deputy PM. The thought of a Lutyen's Delhi peppered with towering statues of empress Mayawati and BSP symbol elephant is .... well, leave it. Even thinking about it makes me shiver.