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Modi’s biggest nightmare lies in UP, Bengal and Odisha

New Delhi, Mar 11: Of all the political narratives the BJP will have to deal with in the run up to the parliamentary polls, the most striking one would be - can 'Narendra Modi' as a brand equity work in three important states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha.

In terms of image, Modi seems to have come a full circle. Post-Pulwama and government's actions against terror camps in Pakistan and firm handling of separatists in Jammu and Kashmir, many in BJP see it is the return of the 'vintage Modi'.

"In 2002 after post-Godhra riots and terrorists attack at Gandhinagar’s Akshardham temple, the BJP campaigners led by Arun Jaitley and George Fernandes had pushed the line if Modi does not return to power, Gujarat will not be safe. Today also, the country is heading for a poll where everyone is looking for a strong Prime Minister," a BJP leader said here.

But how much of it would help in faction-ridden Uttar Pradesh and also two eastern states of West Bengal and Odisha remains to be seen. BJP sources admitted that 'radical nationalism' can hardly be best of political cards in two eastern states.

Apparently, BJP's scheme of things for a decisive battle in Mamata Banerjee-ruled West Bengal and also Odisha is well reflected in the poll schedule announced by the Election Commission. "The challenges in West Bengal and Odisha are identical, we have to win as many seats - all new ones. But in Uttar Pradesh we have to retain our grip, The task of repeating 2014 performance - 71 seats on our own and two for ally Apna Dal would be difficult," a party leader confessed.

The poll strategists too understand this well. According to BJP sources, in rest of India things should be more or less status quo vis-a-vis what was the broad picture five years back.

"We may not do as bad as we did in assembly elections in Chhattisgarh and our performance will be good in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan as well. The Pulwama attack, Indian Air Force aerial strike meaning ‘emotion’ packaged as nationalism will motivate voters towards BJP in these states. But the challenge is in UP," the source said as the alliance between Samajwadi Party and BSP and Congress pitching in Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have made the game more of a puzzle in country's most populous state.

The poll schedule in West Bengal - seven phase polling at par with Bihar and Uttar Pradesh - the two states known for electoral violence - has predictably send the message that deployment forces will be huge in Mamata Banerjee-ruled state where 2018 panchayat elections were marred by allegations of goondaism and all sorts of malpractices.

Trinamool leader Firhad Hakim has already said that seven phase polling will have no impact in terms of making penetration into the support base of Mamata Banerjee.

Trinamool sources have cited that despite huge deployment of central forces during Uluberia by poll, the Trinamool Congress could register a convincing win when its nominee Sajda Ahmed could poll over 60 per cent of votes.

But in the BJP camp, Rajya Sabha MP Roopa Ganguly has said that "adequate deployment of forces will ensure that a large number of Bengal voters can exercise their franchise. In Panchayat elections some BJP candidates even could not file nominations".

Senior party leader Rahul Sinha has also spoken on these lines and said EC's poll schedule is a testimony to the fact law and order situation is pretty bad in the state.

The BJP, which could win only Asansol and Darjeeling seats in 2014, has set a target of 22 plus out of 42 seats in the state.

Similarly in Odisha, where the BJP won only one seat Sundargarh (Union Minister Jual Oram), the party will have to win at least 10-12 seats out of 21 -- "to make up the possible loss in Hindi heartland states especially UP".

"Naveen Patnaik remains a popular face there and as of now BJP's focus will be to do best in parliamentary polls and play it down in assembly elections. The message to BJD leadership being - let him become Chief Minister yet again, but Naveenbabu should be one of our soft NDA allies and help us in Lok Sabha polls," a source said.

As it is - five years back, the BJP had come number two in nine seats - Balasore, Bargarh, Bhubaneswar, Bolangir, Dhenkanal, Kalahandi, Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj and Sambhalpur

The saffron party's prospects for wresting seats have brightened in Kendrapara after Baijayant Panda defected to the saffron camp.

In Dhenkanal too, sitting BJD MP Tathagata Sathpathy has expressed desire not to contest and thus could help BJP's Rudra Narayan Pani win the seat. Mr Pani had finished second in 2014.

Among the sure seat for BJP this time will be Bhubaneswar where the party is all set to field a former bureaucrat Aparajita Sarangi. (UNI)