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BJP looking to strengthen voter base in 164 Lok Sabha seats

LiveMint logoLiveMint 16-04-2017 Gyan Varma

New Delhi: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to expand its voter base in states where it has traditionally been weak. Two years before the general elections in 2019, BJP leaders have identified 164 Lok Sabha seats where the party needs to improve its tally. 

At the end of a two-day national executive in Bhubaneswar on Sunday, senior leaders of the BJP pledged that despite clashes in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura the BJP leadership will continue with attempts to improve its organisational strength and voter base in these states. 

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The 164 Lok Sabha seats identified by the BJP are in the states of West Bengal (42), Tamil Nadu (39), Andhra Pradesh (25), Odisha (21), Kerala (20) and Telangana (17). However, the BJP could only manage to win a paltry seven of these seats in the 2014 general elections. The party leadership is hoping that the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the party’s winning spree in assembly elections will extend to these states as well.

“The next national executive of BJP will be held in July this year in Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. There is a very clear plan of the party. The national council meeting was held in Kerala in September, then national executive meeting just concluded in Odisha and the next meeting will be in Andhra Pradesh. The party believes that a majority of seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls should come from these areas where BJP has a marginal presence,” said a senior BJP leader who also attended the national executive meeting in Bhubaneswar.

The intent of the party to expand into newer areas can be gauged from the fact that it is almost after two decades that the BJP has organised a national executive meeting in Odisha. BJP president Amit Shah is set to return to Odisha to hold booth-level meetings of BJP workers.

During his speech at the national executive meeting in Bhubaneswar, Shah said the real success of the BJP—and its “golden age”—will come only when it wins elections in West Bengal, Odisha and Kerala.

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“There are 36,000 polling booths in Odisha. We have invited Shah to hold a meeting with booth-level workers. The recently concluded panchayat elections in Odisha was an attempt to become the second most important political party in Odisha, the assembly elections in Odisha would be a step to become the single largest party in the state,” said the BJP leader. Assembly elections in Odisha are due in May 2019 along with the general elections.

In the just-concluded panchayat polls, chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) remained the leading party with 473 zilla parishad seats out of 853, but the BJP managed to make significant ground by winning 297 seats.

On its last day, the Bhubaneshwar national executive passed a resolution saying the development policies of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) were getting the support of other political parties as there were now 32 political parties that were constituents of the NDA.

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“In Tamil Nadu, Kerala and northeastern states, there is constant increase in the number and strength of parties supporting NDA. In the political history of India, this is for the first time under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that a coalition is working wholeheartedly for the welfare of the people,” the resolution said.

The resolution also said that the BJP’s performance in the recent assembly elections in Manipur indicates that the policies of the Union government have been well accepted by the people.

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