102 LS Seats in 21 States Vote Today

The Asian Age.  | Sanjay Basak

India, Politics

All eyes are on Tamil Nadu where the BJP is desperate to open its account

Armed with the potent arsenal of Lord Ram, Sanatan Dharma, the Citizenship Amendment Act and the unyielding promise of “Modi’s guarantees”, the BJP aims to unsettle its main rival, the I.N.D.I.A. bloc. With rising unemployment, inflation, communal tension, caste census and the farmers’ agitation emerging as the frontline battlegrounds, the I.N.D.I.A. bloc is all set to engage its adversaries head-on. (PTI FIle)

NEW DELHI: In another few hours, the curtain will finally lift from the Lok Sabha battleground for 2024.

One hundred and two Lok Sabha seats across 21 states and Union territories will go to the polls in the first phase Friday. During the last general election, the Opposition had won 45 of these 102 Lok Sabha seats, while the BJP-led NDA had won 41. With 39 seats in Tamil Nadu and one in Puducherry, the largest number of seats which will vote in the first phase is from South India. In 2019, the DMK-led alliance won 39 of the 40 seats in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

Armed with the potent arsenal of Lord Ram, Sanatan Dharma, the Citizenship Amendment Act and the unyielding promise of “Modi’s guarantees”, the BJP aims to unsettle its main rival, the I.N.D.I.A. bloc. With rising unemployment, inflation, communal tension, caste census and the farmers’ agitation emerging as the frontline battlegrounds, the I.N.D.I.A. bloc is all set to engage its adversaries head-on.

There are a few wrinkles on the saffron forehead as the 2024 CSDS-Lokniti pre-poll survey indicated that “unemployment and price rise” remained the main concern of the electorate. As the BJP sought to emphasise issues like the inauguration of the Ram temple and went into a high decibel campaign on Sanatan Dharma, these issues failed to click with voters “in comparison to livelihood concerns”. Regardless, the survey indicated that the BJP and its allies have a “comfortable 12 per cent lead over the I.N.D.I.A. bloc”.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on Tamil Nadu where the BJP is desperate to open its account. Besides the charisma and popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP is also banking heavily on its newfound Tamil star and state unit chief, former IPS officer K. Annamalai, his constituency Coimbatore will be going to the polls on Friday.

His seven-month long “En Mann, En Makkal” (My land, my people) padayatra culminated in a rally attended by the Prime Minister. In Coimbatore, Annamalai is locked in a triangular fight with the DMK and AIADMK. In Tamil Nadu, the BJP led by Modi had been repeatedly hitting out at the DMK leaders for “insulting” Sanatan Dharma.

Under Annamalai in Tamil Nadu, the BJP is contesting 23 seats on its own, a departure from its approach to contest as an ally.

Speaking to this newspaper, a senior BJP leader sounded somewhat cynical. He argued: “The BJP has no traditional vote bank in Tamil Nadu. We only gained when the party aligned with the Dravidian players.” It was further argued that Tamil Nadu might not “positively respond” to the BJP’s call for “one language, one nation, one poll”.

Tamil Nadu’s electoral dynamics are crucial for the BJP's broader electoral objectives, whether it aims to retain its current seats or make significant gains towards achieving a landmark majority in the Lok Sabha.

Of its 80 Lok Sabha seats, the first phase of polling will be held in eight seats in Uttar Pradesh. The state — which has often been electorally viewed as the “gateway to Delhi”, will be involved in all seven phases of the general election. It may be recalled that of the eight seats voting on Friday, the BJP had managed to win only three in the last general election. These were Pilibhit, Kairana and Muzaffarnagar. The Samajwadi Party had won Moradabad and Rampur. The Bahujan Samaj Party won Saharanpur, Bijor and Nagina.

Of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan, polling in the first phase will be held in 12 seats. Securing 24 of 25 seats, it was a clean sweep for the BJP in the desert state during the last general election. Even as the BJP is banking on religion and the CAA to woo the voters, the Opposition is stoking the fire of farmers’ protests, which it believes is simmering in the desert state.

Of 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra, polling will be held in five seats on Friday. In the fray will be Union minister Nitin Gadkari' on his home turf Nagpur. Given the context of the intense political manipulation in the state, the situation may become tricky for the BJP. During the last general election, it had won 23 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats. Its ally, the Shiv Sena (before the split), secured 18 seats. Sources revealed that in the case of the Uddhav Thackery-led Shiv Sena, the fallout with the BJP and subsequent political maneuvering to oust it, “could potentially elicit sympathy” from certain sections of voters. Unemployment has also emerged as a major electoral issue" in the state, a Congress leader claimed.

Other states and union territories going to polls in the first phase include: Madhya Pradesh (6) Bihar (4), Assam (5),Uttarakhand (5), West Bengal (3), Chhattisgarh (1), Arunachal Pradesh (2), Manipur (2), Meghalaya (2), Mizoram (1), Nagaland (1), Sikkim (1), Tripura (1), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (1), Jammu and Kashmir (1), Lakshadweep (1) and Puducherry (1).

 

 

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