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From marginal to major: BJP looks to make dent in assembly polls

Posted by on March 31, 2011 1 Comment

New Delhi, March 31 (IANS) No presence in four of the assemblies and only 10 seats in the fifth state! India’s principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hopelessly outnumbered in the assembly elections beginning Monday, but is hoping that the anti-Congress mood in the country will help change the situation.

The BJP says it is confident of emerging as a force in Assam and earning some representation in the West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry legislatures where it drew a blank in 2006.

The multi-phased elections begin April 4 with Assam and end May 10 in West Bengal. The odds are stacked against the BJP with the Congress the incumbent in Assam and Puducherry, a major player in Tamil Nadu where it partners the ruling DMK, the main opposition in Kerala and a key fighter in West Bengal. Both Kerala and West Bengal have Left governments.

BJP leaders say they are banking on the “general environment” against corruption in the country to better the odds.

“Look at the general environment. The mood is so anti-UPA (United Progressive Alliance), anti-Congress for all the corruption. Although these are state elections, the excesses by the central government will have an impact,” BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told IANS.

In the five state assemblies with a total of 824 seats, the BJP holds just 10 seats and that too in Assam, where it obtained an 11 percent vote share in 2006, contesting alone in 125 seats.

“In Assam, the BJP has the best chance of emerging as a force to reckon with,” Sitharaman said.

The party has been quite active in the northeast state and held its last national executive meet in Guwahati, apart from raising issues like dams in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh and Bangladeshi illegal immigrants.

The party is contesting in all 126 seats and fancies its chances of emerging with a higher number of seats in the new assembly on the basis of its strong presence in the Barak and Brahmaputra valleys.

In West Bengal, where the Left takes on the Trinamool Congress, the BJP is hoping to make an electoral dent at the end of the six-phased elections to the 294-seat assembly through its recent gains in north Bengal, where it has backed the demand for Gorkhaland, and the possibility of the Gorkha Janmukthi Morcha (GJM) coming to its aid.

“There is a wave for change in West Bengal,” said Sitharaman.

In the Left-ruled Kerala too, the BJP desperately wants to make a debut. This time, it says it wants to “more than just open” its account by fighting all the 140 seats.

“It is not just opening account, we will have a good presence in the assembly this time,” said Kerala state BJP president V. Muraleedharan, who lists corruption of both the state and central governments and price rise as major issues.

“The people of the state are fed up with both the Left front and the Congress-led alliance. They will certainly give a chance to the BJP,” he said.

The BJP, according to party insiders, has pinned its hopes on seats in Kasargod, Palakkad and Thiruvananthapuram districts, expecting former union minister O. Rajagopal to romp home at Nemom constituency.

In Tamil Nadu, the BJP has no member in the outgoing 234-member assembly, having fought the elections on its own in 2006. The party, contesting 194 seats, had four members in the 2001 assembly who won in alliance with the DMK.

“This time around, we are confident of having a two-digit representation in the assembly,” said state party president Pon. Radhakrishnan, who is contesting from the Nagerkoil seat.

According to Radhakrishnan, the party is strong in Ramanathapuram, Kanyakumari, Tirunelvelli, Coimbatore, Tiruchirapalli, Chennai, Dharmapuri and Dindigul districts. And in nearby Puducherry, the party is preparing to contest 30 assembly seats.

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