NEW DELHI: The Lok Sabha election schedule announced on Sunday is being read by a section of the political class and experts as giving the BJP an advantage. Particularly pointing to three states - Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar - which account for 162 seats and where polling will be held in all seven phases, they feel the prolonged exercise will enable the BJP, which has deep pockets, to campaign vigorously in order to take on strong opposition alliances in these states.
“Seven days poll in three states. There is only one reason for it to happen in Bengal, it is the BJP’s gameplan to disturb Bengal. They will get a befitting reply and we will get 42 out of 42 seats,” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters in Kolkata. But the BJP and the Election Commission dismissed any suggestion that the poll schedule favoured the saffron party.
“The duration of elections is the same as in 2014. Besides, each party gets the same duration to campaign. If the duration suits the BJP then it should equally suit other parties as well. It’s obvious that those scared of the BJP are succumbing to senseless comments,” said Rajya Sabha MP and BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao.
An EC official said the commission would react only if a formal complaint is filed.In UP, the SP-BSP alliance was not bothered. Ghanshyam Tiwari, spokesperson of the Samajwadi Party said: “The party is ready with its cadre and campaign to take on the BJP. We are not thinking it is an advantage for the BJP.” As for the BSP, its spokesperson Sudhindra Bhadoria merely said: “The election will be contested on socio-economic issues.”
Political parties apart, some experts felt the poll schedule has not followed a pattern, although they stopped short of calling it a design. “All states where BJP doesn’t have a stake or very little stakes irrespective of the size of the state are going in a single phase. Look at Tamil Nadu with 39 seats, almost the same as Bihar. It has a single phase election while Bihar will have seven phases,” said Sanjay Kumar, director at the Centre for the Study of Developing (CSDS).
Other states like Maharashtra - where BJP has allied with Shiv Sena following a hard bargain - voted in three phases in 2014 while it is four this time. Another key state Odisha, where BJP is looking for expanding its footprint, elections will be held in four phases compared to two in 2014.Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, political analyst and author of Narendra Modi: The Man, the Times, said long election campaign benefits political parties with deep pockets. “At the moment there is only one party which has deep pockets.”