BJP won 216 of 273 seats in the eight ‘heartland’ states in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections
The Bharatiya Janata Party is leading comfortably in eight key states in northern and central India that helped the party get unprecedented success in 2014 - Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
The party and its allies are set to sweep almost all seats in seven of the states.
At 11 am, the BJP and its allies were leading in 38 of the 40 seats in Bihar, and in 56 of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh.
In Rajasthan, the party was ahead in 24 of 25 seats.
In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP was leading in 28 of 29 seats at 11 am.
The party is ahead in all 26 seats of Gujarat.
These states are part of the traditional heartland of the BJP that gives India as many as 273 of its 543 Lok Sabha MPs.
In the previous Lok Sabha elections, 216 of the victorious candidates in these eight states belonged to the BJP.
Alone accounting for 49 crore voters, these states are again key to the party’s chances of re-election.
The Congress, which has been repeatedly demoralised for much of the last five years, had just one factor to find cheer in: months before the General Elections, the BJP lost power in three of these states.
However, as the results come in, the Congress seems to have been unable to translate that success to national polls: the BJP is ahead in 61 out of 65 seats.
In the giant state of Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has often claimed that it can better its 2014 record of 71 MPs. India’s most populated state, a cauldron of caste and communal considerations, has 80 seats in all, the highest share of seats in Parliament.
The Congress, in 2014, was reduced to only two MPs – Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
There is another factor in Uttar Pradesh though: the “mahagathbandhan”. The Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal joined hands to field candidates in all but two seats, making it a three-way contest in most places.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, running from Varanasi, is the most high-profile candidate in the state, but also the one who has the least challenge against him. Other major BJP candidates in the state include Maneka Gandhi, Jaya Prada, Rajnath Singh, Ravi Kishan and Smriti Irani. Most exit polls have predicted more seats for the NDA than for the mahagathbandhan in the state.
In Bihar, which sends 40 seats to Parliament, the BJP has compromised and given more space to its allies, fielding candidates in just 17.
The state’s major candidates include the newcomer Kanhaiya Kumar of the Communist Party of India, Shatrughan Sinha of the Congress, and Ravi Shankar Prasad of the BJP.
Exit polls have unanimously predicted a handsome win for the BJP-led NDA in the state.
In Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan too, the BJP has the backing of the exit polls, while the Congress may not be able to repeat its Assembly polls performance.
The most polarised election this year was in Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP fielded terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur against the Congress’ Digvijaya Singh in Bhopal.
The heartland is the BJP’s main voter base, and how well the party performs there will determine the ease with which it will retain power in 2019. As the votes are counted on Thursday, track the live updates from these states on this blog.
Here is the state-wise seat share for the BJP in these states in 2014:
Bihar: 22/40 seats, Chhattisgarh: 10/11 seats, Gujarat: 26/26 seats, Madhya Pradesh: 27/29 seats, Maharashtra: 23/48 seats, Jharkhand:12/14 seats, Rajasthan: 25/25 seats, Uttar Pradesh: 71/80 seats.