Is there any correlation to the length of campaigning by candidates and the eventual result? The answer to that question is a bit complex, for if we take the few very recent examples of MP, Chhattisgarh Rajasthan and Delhi, then a definite pattern emerges – BJP had named its candidates well in advance in three of those states and won them decisively but lost Delhi by a whisker where it had inordinately delayed announcing the names of candidates. Similarly, Congress had messed up ticket distribution in MP where it lost big, but also lost Rajasthan where tickets were distributed in advance. Going back a little further in time, if we take a careful look at 2004 LS polls, we can discern that one of the factors that led to BJP’s under-performance was lesser campaign time available for candidates which probably helped a bigger organizational behemoth like the Congress party.
We can conclude from the above examples that everything else being equal, lesser campaign times would benefit Congress more than the BJP. Another factor that goes in favour of the Congress is that summer elections always adversely affect BJP more because of its core-vote base of urban middle classes, who after all is said and done, are averse to suffer the summer heat in order to exercise their democratic franchise. An interesting statistic is that BJP has always won big during winter elections than in summer elections – 1989 when BJP made the giant leap from 2 to 85, 1998 when BJP won the first near decisive mandate as the head of NDA and 1999 when BJP and NDA won a decisive mandate were all winter elections, whereas 2004 and 2009, when BJP lost to Congress were summer elections (even 1996 summer election was actually a big disappointment for BJP when it lost a historic opportunity to win a decisive or near-decisive mandate of 200 LS seats).
All of this may of course not matter in 2014, for in a wave election all the shortcomings can get camouflaged in the cloak of a flowing tide. BJP may yet win 2014 by default because of an anti-Congress wave in India or a pro-Modi wave in India or a wave for change in India… or for umpteen other possible waves. What still doesn’t make sense is the delay in announcing the names of candidates in crucial north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, wherein some of the candidates will probably have less than 3 weeks to campaign! Imagine covering 600-900 odd polling booths in 20 odd days, which means these candidates are expected to cover 30-45 polling booths per day or roughly 2-3 polling booths every waking hour. This is not only suicidal but also downright criminal! How many more CEC meetings does the BJP have to undertake before surrendering all its first mover advantage in the 2014 campaign?
North India – The heartland
BJP has touched upon three important states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh in the third list, where the party has to win close to 80%+ seats if it has to have a realistic chance of forming a stable government. Let us start our analysis with the smaller state of Jharkhand, a state we had recently surveyed and had projected 11 seats to the BJP even before the party announced its candidates – a costly mistake, in hindsight. After the yawn-inducing candidate selection by BJP of the same tired old faces, it would be a big surprise if the party touches double digits. Where is the “new thinking” in BJP? What happened to a party that was supposed to be attracting new talent in hordes? All that is left for the party is a “wave” on which it must somehow ride towards victory post.
Ranchi: Ram Tahal Chaudhary has lost this seat twice narrowly to Congress’s Subodh Kant Sahay and he may well repeat that feat again in 2014! Former DGP and Cricket Administrator Amithabh Chaudhary is contesting on a JVM ticket making it a triangular contest and even if BJP somehow manages to win this seat it would be because of a national wave. Ranchi represents everything that is wrong with the thinking of BJP’s central leadership, for it is hell-bent on backing a losing horse just to keep its leaders happy. Yes Ram Tahal Chaudhary had won this seat thrice in 96, 98 and 99, but that was at the height of a BJP wave here when Jharkhand state was promised by the party in an undivided Bihar – now, it is a cheque that has already been encashed.
Hazaribagh: is now a fight of the dynasties as Congress has re-nominated the royal, Saurabh Narayan Singh who is also a two-time MLA and as if on cue, BJP has nominated Jayant Sinha whose father, Yashwant Sinha, has represented this constituency many times and has decent rapport with the voters (including minorities). In this upper-caste battle between BJP and Congress, the OBC and minority votes may prove to be crucial in the end analysis. Congress will use Lalu Prasad Yadav and BJP has its prime-ministerial candidate Modi to sway the OBC voters here. This is also a rare constituency where Muslims have very good working relationship with a BJP leader, Mr Yashwant Sinha, so Congress will find it difficult to cause an upset.
Dhanbad, Giridih and Khunti: In these three seats, BJP is ahead of its rivals and all three sitting MPs – Pashupatinath Singh, Ravindra Pandey and Karia Munda respectively – have been re-nominated, which was the only viable course of action for the party.
Kodarma: is a VIP seat as it is represented by ex CM, Babulal Marandi of the JVM. BJP has nominated the best possible candidate against Mr Marandi, the sate unit president, Ravindra Kumar Rai, who has half-a-chance of upsetting the Marandi applecart. If BJP has to wrest this seat, then it has to improve its performance among OBC voters, especially in Jamua and Bagodar assembly segments as tribal vote in any case would go to JVM. As of now Marandi is ahead in the race.
Lohardaga: BJP has re-nominated sitting MP Sudarshan Bhagat who had narrowly defeated Congress’s old warhorse, Rameshwar Oraon in 2009. Ex IPS Arun Oraon is now with the BJP but was expecting to get the party ticket here and it is not yet clear how he would react to ticket denial. If Arun Oraon works for the BJP then it would be an easy victory for Sudarshan Bhagat, else it’s a tight contest, especially if Chamra Linda, the sitting independent MLA of Gumla doesn’t contest. Thus the victory of BJP or Congress here could be decided by two external leaders – Arun Oraon and Chamra Linda.
Dumka: Sunil Soren of the BJP has his best chance of defeating Guruji (Shibu Soren), the grand old man of Santhal politics who is facing a big challenge of anti-incumbency here. It is possible that Babulal Marandi may contest from here on the JVM ticket, which could make this a very complex fight. We would have a clearer picture in a few days’ time, after Marandi’s possible nomination and Modi’s planned rally here.
Chatra: BJP has nominated a fresh face, Sunil Singh from here, but this is one of those constituencies where the party may be out of contest at the very outset, for the fight seems to be mainly between independent MP, Inder Singh Namdhari and RJD here.
Godda: BJP has once again re-nominated sitting MP Nishikant Dubey and Congress has reposed faith in Furkann Ansari. Dubey stands a decent chance of repeating his 2009 victory over Ansari who is facing big rebellion from within Congress in the form of Krishnanand Jha. This is the only seat in Santhal Paraganas where Congress still has some relevance, but may face defeat again this time as non-Muslims are unwilling to vote for the party as shown by our own recent survey.
Rajmahal and Palamau: are two seats where BJP has shown some out-of-the-box thinking and has made winning a very important criteria. In Rajamahal, BJP has replaced sitting MP with JMM strongman and sitting MLA of Barhait, Hemlal Murmu, who had only recently joined the party. In Palmau, BJP has nominated former DGP V.S. Ram who would be contesting against JMM rebel Kameshwar Baitha of AJSU, a former Maoist whom Ram had arrested as the DGP. BJP can win both these seats, especially with the prevalent Modi wave here.
It is widely believed that Bihar is in the midst of a veritable Modi wave at present and Ram Vilas Paswan seems to have only added to that in the last few weeks. BJP has come up with a decent list of candidates for Bihar – a state where our own survey would be presented sometime next week. There is definitely fresh thinking in the BJP’s Bihar list which may give a rich harvest for the party in 2014.
At the very outset, it can be said that among the dozen sitting BJP MPs who have been re-nominated, about 8 are in a very strong position and there is no need to go into details of their constituencies – Smt Rama Devi (Sheohar), Dr Sanjay Jaiswal (Pashchim Champaran), Radha Mohan Singh (Purvi Champaran), Shahnawaz Hussain (Bhagalpur), Pappu Singh (Purnia), Hari Manjhi (Gaya), Sushil Kumar Singh (Aurangabad) and Kirti Azad (Darbhanga) are all expected to easily sail through in 2014. Two Independent MPs who are contesting on BJP ticket this time – Om Prakash Yadav who tamed the notorious Mohammed Shahbuddin in Siwan and Putul Devi, the widow of late Digvijay Singh, from Banka – should also easily win their respective constituencies.
In Katihar, Tariq Anwar of the NCP is no longer the powerhouse that he once was, so Nikhil Kumar Chaudhary who is also the sitting MP of BJP has a very good advantage on this seat in 2014. Pradeep Kumar Singh had won Araria by a narrow margin in 2009 against LJP, but since Paswan has joined NDA, he may find the going much easier this time around.
Saran: Rajeev Pratap Rudy has once again accepted the challenge of taking on Lalu Prasad Yadav in his home turf, where this time Yadav’s wife and former CM Rabri Devi is contesting on the RJD ticket. Rudy had lost in 2009 by about 50k votes but had given Lalu sleepless nights. This time the situation has changed a lot as there is a Modi wave in the state and the OBC votes (at least the non-Yadav ones) are consolidating behind BJP. Chapra, Sonepur, Garkha and Amnour assembly segments would be crucial for Rudy as he has to take leads in all of these. As of today, Chapra and Sonepur seem to be solidly behind BJP, so Rabri Devi might find the going a lot tougher than her husband last time. Hats off to Rajeev Pratap Rudy, one of those rare leaders of BJP’s permanently Delhi based, TV studio-hopping gang, who doesn’t look for a “safe seat” and is ready for a tough battle.
Pataliputra: A Yadav and OBC dominated parliamentary seat which is going to witness a three-cornered battle among Yadavs – Ram Kripal Yadav (BJP) v/s Misa Bharati (RJD) v/s Prof Ranjan Prasad Yadav (JDU). In this battle of OBCs, upper caste votes could prove to be crucial in the end which is the reason why BJP seems to have a minor edge. Ram Kripal Yadav has built a base in this constituency over the last couple of years and his ticket denial by Lalu was indeed a bad move. The sitting JDU MP has a clean image but may find it difficult to sustain a campaign without the support of BJP cadre.
Sasaram: As expected, BJP has given ticket to Chhedi Paswan, who recently resigned as JDU MLA and has considerable clout here. JDU is going to field retired IAS officer, K.P. Ramaiah from here. Lok Sabha speaker, Meira Kumar has been winning this seat for the last two elections, but may find it difficult in a 3 cornered fight. BJP is strong in Kargahar and Chainpur assembly segments and its NDA partner, LJP has strength in Bhabua assembly segment, while Mohania assembly segment is Chhedi Paswan’s stronghold. Thus with 4 out of 6 assembly segments leaning towards BJP, Meira Kumar is in big trouble.
Arrah: Here BJP has given ticket to one of its high profile new recruits, former home secretary, R.K. Singh. The party has considerable strength in Shahpur, Agiaon, Tarari and Sandesh assembly segments where it is expecting to take big leads and win this seat. What has made this seat difficult for BJP is that slain Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh’s son, Indu Bhushan is also contesting from here as a nominee of Desi Kisan Party. In the 2004 polls, Brahmeshwar Singh had contested from here as an independent and had secured 1.5 Lakh votes which had helped RJD win this seat. If Indu Bhushan gets anywhere near as many votes as his father then R.K. Singh could be in trouble
Ujiarpur: Hajipur MLA, Nityanand Rai has been given this difficult seat which could see a three cornered battle between BJP, JDU and RJD. This is one of those seats that can possibly go to the wires as there is no clear trend emerging as of yet.
Nawada and Begusarai: MLC Giriraj Singh who wanted to contest from Begusarai has been given Nawada, while Nawada MP Bhola Singh has been shifted to Begusarai. This shift has created heartburn among leaders and workers in both the constituencies and Giriraj Singh has even tried to get a change of seat post announcement. Bhola Singh apparently is in a better position to win Begusarai which also has considerable Muslim voters, but Nawada may be difficult for the BJP.
Valmiki Nagar: This is a JDU stronghold from where Baidyanath Prasad Mahto had won the 2009 elections with close to 2 lakh votes. This time there is rebellion within JDU against Mahato’s candidature as agriculture minister Narendra Singh and Transport minister Bishen Patel have been raising a red flag against the sitting MP. BJP has nominated Narkatiyaganj MLA, Satish Chandra Dubey for this seat who is expecting big leads from his home constituency and Ramnagar assembly segment. The split in Muslim votes this time is also a key factor, especially in assembly segments like Sikta.
Muzaffarpur and Madhepura: Sitting JDU MP, Jay Narayan Nishad’s son, Ajay Nishad has been nominated as BJP’s candidate from here, which has caused a lot of rebellion within saffron ranks. If the party doesn’t work together, then winning this seat would become a herculean task, especially as many BJP MLA’s, including Suresh Sharma of Muzaffarpur, are unwilling to ask votes for Nishad. In Madhepura, BJP has fielded Vijay Kumar Kushwaha, a JP-movement leader who was once considered as an equal of Nitish Kumar. He also happens to be the husband of Renu Kumari Kushwaha who quit this week as a minister in the Nitish government. With the Kushwaha votes shifting in a big way towards BJP and sections of Dalits moving with Paswan, JDU president Sharad Yadav may have a tough time in his stronghold.
Gopalganj: Former BSP state unit vice-president Janak Chamar who recently joined BJP has been made the LS candidate from this seat. He represents the newly emerging Dalit face of the party and has a decent chance of posting a victory from here, especially as JDU stalwart and sitting MP Puranmasi Ram has quit the party and created chaos.
Anything less than 25 in this state where BJP won an impressive third term would be a huge disappointment for the saffron camp. Ticket distribution here has been mostly along expected lines, as the party has announced 24 names in this list. Congress is organizationally very weak after its debilitating defeat just 3 months ago and the anti-incumbency against the UPA government at the centre has only worsened the matters for the party. Whatever pickings Congress can hope from Madhya Pradesh have to come from individual leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindhia in Gwalior or Kamalnath in Chhindwara etc.
There is no point analysing each seat as BJP would easily win most of them so we will concentrate only on the important swing seats and highlight the changes the party has made this time. For instance, state unit president, Narendra Singh Tomar, has been moved from Morena to Gwalior (a wise move) without paying heed to the unreasonable request of Yashodhara Raje Scindhia who wanted a ticket for her mostly NRI son. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s nephew, Anoop Mishra would now be contesting from Morena. Former IAS officer Bhagirath Prasad Singh, who refused the Congress ticket to join BJP last week, has been given the Bhind reserved constituency. The big worry for BJP could be that it has named several unknown entities in its list which probably leaves a lot on the shoulders of Modi to pull them towards victory.
Mandla: Faggan Singh Kulaste, former minister in the Vajpayee cabinet and one of the tribal faces of the party has been re-nominated despite losing 2009. This time he should sail through easily.
Shahdol: Old man Dalpat Singh has been nominated from here to take on the royalty of Ambagarh Chauki represented by sitting MP of Congress Rajesh Nandini Singh. A young new face could probably have made a much better choice for the BJP, but the party seems to be in no mood to anger the old guard.
Hoshangabad: Rao Uday Pratap Singh, the sitting MP of Congress, who joined BJP just before the assembly elections last year has been given the ticket here, which has led to some discontentment. Rao Uday Pratap Singh is a young and dynamic farmer leader who has considerable hold over rural voters and is virtually undefeatable here, even with some BJP workers rebelling against him.
Chhindwara: Local MLA, Chandrabhan Singh, has been nominated to take on Congress stalwart, Ajatashatru, Kamalnath. As of today, it looks like BJP won’t be able to cause the big upset, but this David v/s Goliath fight may turn in the coming days with aggressive campaigning.
Rajgarh: This is a seat which sways as per the whims and fancies of Digvijay Singh and BJP seems to have made peace with the fact, therefore nominating a greenhorn, Rodmal Nagar, who is an unknown entity (there is even talk of match-fixing). Many were expecting a ticket to Tawarchand Gehlot from here who could have probably given a fight to Congress.
Guna: Jyotiraditya Scindhia will win this seat despite BJP nominating ex MP and sitting MLA, Jaibhan Singh Pavaiya.
Ujjain: Another unknown commodity, Prof Chintamani Malviya has been nominated from here to take on sitting MP of Congress, Guddu Premchand. Prof Malviya teaches philosophy and has come from very humble beginnings where he earned his living as a street vendor. It is said that top RSS leaders like Makhan Singh and Bhagwat Charan Mathur were behind this bold move by the BJP of denying ticket to old guard like Satyanarayan Jatiya and instead trying a young new face.
Ratlam: Two veterans, Kantilal Bhuria (Congress) and Dileep Singh Bhuria (BJP) will once again cross swords here. In 2009 Congress had won this seat, but the recent victory of BJP in the assembly elections coupled with Modi wave may tilt the balance in favour of Dilip Singh Bhuria this time around.
Finally some “freshness” has been shown by BJP in Karnataka by nominating right leaning Kannada Journalist, Pratap Simha from Mysore, a seat which has strong Congress presence. One thing that is absolutely clear from the Karnataka list is that BJP central leadership (of Modi-Rajnath duo) has simply given the state completely under the control of B.S Yeddyurappa. It is a good move because now BSY, the tallest standing BJP leader south of Vindhyas, will be responsible for the party’s showing in the state. All other factions have been put to place and BSY has emerged on top of Karnataka once again.
Mysore: This an out and out Congress seat which has the entire state government concentrated in this region. By nominating a young journalist like Pratap Simha, at least BJP has shown an inclination to think out of the box. Now Simha and BJP must convert this into a David v/s Goliath battle and also use the large online army of BJP supporters to effectively campaign from here. If the underdog manages to somehow upset the Congress applecart, then CM Siddramaiah would be in big trouble post elections.
Udupi-Chikmagalur: BSY imprint is seen cleary in this as his close aide and confidante, Shobha Karandlaje, has managed to get the ticket from here. Congress MP, J.P. Hegde is a clean man who has a clear edge in this seat, but now it all depends on BSY’s ability to grab victory from the jaws of defeat – a job he is fully capable of, when the party backs him fully. With the Brahmin votes splitting vertically, minority and Kuruba votes going to Congress and Lingayat votes with BJP, Vokkaliga and other backward caste votes could become crucial in this election. Can BSY create his social engineering magic? Will the local unit of BJP, especially MLAs like C.T. Ravi back Shobha 100%? Answers to these questions hold BJP’s chances here.
Tumkur: Another BSY imprint on ticket distribution, for the entire state BJP unit led by the Joshi-Anant gang were up in arms against re-nominating sitting MP from here, but BSY got his follower, G.S. Basawaraj the ticket despite all odds. Now the task is cut out for BSY, he has to polarize the entire Lingayat votes in favour of BJP here. Once again the contest here is likely to be between BJP and JDS, as Congress is weak in this parliamentary constituency.
Kolar and Mandya: BJP has no chance of winning Mandya and only remote chance of defeating union minister K.H. Muniyappa in Kolar. M. Narayanaswamy has been nominated from Kolar and Shivlingaiah will take on actress Ramya in Mandya. Interestingly, apart from Bellary where Sriramulu will get the party ticket, Bidar is the only other seat where BJP hasn’t announced its candidate (Hassan doesn’t matter). Could it be possible that Mallamma Bande, the widow of slain cop, Mallikarjun Bande, is being considered for Bidar? If this miracle happens, then Congress will likely be sunk in North Karnataka.
Finally, Poonam Mahajan will take on the formidable Priya Dutt from Mumbai North Central, while advocate Sharad Bansode will once again try his luck against union Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde who has never lost this seat since 1998, except for 2004 when his wife Ujwalatai Shinde contested from Solapur. Poonam Mahajan’s contest against Ms Dutt may just be academic in nature, but it does give Gopinath Munde a big boost. Both these constituencies are Congress strongholds and are likely to withstand even a strong Modi wave.
BJP has announced 14 names from Kerala too, but most of them would find it difficult to save their deposits.
The Assam list is singularly uninspiring and the party may now win only 3-4 seats in this state. One wonders what was the logic in giving ticket to Rameshwar Teli from Dibrugarh, where the only hope for the BJP now is a possible Modi wave and the distant possibility of a tie-up with AGP. Kabindra Purakayastha has been re-nominated from Silchar but once again requires a big vote-split between Congress and AUDF to emerge victorious.
In West Bengal, BJP has given 7 tickets, but the only one of importance is Darjeeling where former deputy leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, S.S. Ahluwalia has been given BJP ticket and has also received the crucial support of GMM. Just like 2009, when Jaswant Singh won from Darjeeling due to GMM support, BJP has a chance of repeating its lone victory in WB but has to content with Trinamool Congress’s football star Baichung Bhutia.