In what is likely to be a turning point in the history of Indian politics, the 2019 Lok Sabha elections will for the first time see BJP contesting more seats than the Congress.
For the ongoing general elections, the BJP has announced 437 candidates. The remaining 106 of the total 543 constituencies have been left for allies of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
On the other hand, the Congress has named only 423 candidates. Even if the party announces names in three more seats – Machhlishahr, Varanasi and Gorakhpur – it is unlikely to surpass the tally of the BJP.
This landmark shift of the BJP overtaking the Congress as the senior party comes after the saffron party rode the ‘Modi wave’ in the 2014 elections, propelling to a majority of its own with 282 seats. The Congress, on the other hand, was plummeted to 44 MPs.
This is a quantum jump for the BJP which fielded 428 candidates in 2014, 433 candidates in 2009, 364 in 2004 and 339 in the 1999 Lok Sabha polls.
Since 1984, when the party won only two seats, the BJP has made impressive gains through a well-calculated strategy of aggressively pursuing opportunities to contest more and more polls, in alliance with smaller regional parties.
On the contrary, the Congress’ pan-India presence has been shrinking across the country.
The Congress has nominated 423 candidates across the country and entered into electoral understanding with smaller, regional players, showing its willingness to play a second fiddle in the arrangement.
In Bihar, the Congress is part of the ‘mahagatbandhan’ which comprises the RJD, Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM, Mukesh Sahni’s Vikassheel Insan Party and Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP. In Uttar Pradesh, it has entered into an alliance with the Apna Dal (Krishna Patel faction) on a few seats.
The Grand Old Party has joined hands with the DMK in Tamil Nadu, with the JD(S) in Karnataka and the NCP in Maharashtra.
The BJP has also joined hands with regional parties in Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and North-Eastern states.
In Bihar, it is fighting polls in alliance with Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and in Maharashtra it has managed to retain its sulking ally Shiv Sena. In Tamil Nadu, it has reached an alliance with the AIADMK while in UP, it is fighting polls in alliance with the Apna Dal and with the Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab.