Sixth Phase: Awaiting setback for BJP

As the Lok Sabha election turns towards north west India in its final stages, the BJP’s worries are set to get bigger, especially in the three PHD States—Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. While Punjab will vote in the last round a week from now, the penultimate phase will see 10 seats of Haryana and seven seats of Delhi going to polls. Voting will also take place in 40 seats spread across eastern India comprising the Poorvanchal region of Uttar Pradesh and parts of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha. The Anantnag-Rajouri seat of Jammu & Kashmir, which was set to vote in the third phase, also goes to the polls.

Of the 58 seats that go to polls in the sixth phase, the BJP had won as many as 40 in the 2019 Lok Sabha election and its NDA allies another five. The Congress, on the other hand, could not win a single seat five years ago, while other INDIA constituents won five. Bahujan Samaj Party and Biju Janata Dal won four each. The subsequent Assembly elections somewhat balanced the equation—INDIA alliance parties led in 22 seats. Although this calculation need not hold in the Parliamentary elections, ground reports suggest that BJP faces headwinds everywhere except Bengal and Odisha.

Haryana and Delhi are in the midst of a blistering heat wave and could possibly be on the verge of an electoral wave as well. On paper, Haryana looks like a safe bastion for the BJP. The party swept all 10 seats, mostly by huge margins, in 2019 and led in eight seats in the subsequent Assembly elections. But many factors have suddenly come together to turn the tide. The farmers’ movement prepared the ground to give expression to latent unease with the ruling dispensation. It induced the dominant peasant community to shift to the Congress. The BJP’s hopes rested on a Jat/non-Jat divide that does not seem to have materialised, thanks to widespread unease on livelihood issues such as price rise, unemployment and intense disapproval of the Agniveer scheme. Besides, the Congress has carefully balanced the social profile of its candidates by giving only two seats to Jat candidates and thus blunted possible polarisation.

Changing the CM on the eve of Lok Sabha polls has not worked. It has left the state government tottering with prominent leaders deserting the BJP. What adds to Congress’s advantage is that the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), the two Jat-Centric parties representing the third pole of Haryana politics, have been pushed to the margins this time. The Congress appears set to snatch more than half the seats. It could even be a reverse sweep this time.

Another upset awaits the BJP in neighbouring Delhi where the ruling Aam Aadmi Party and the Opposition Congress have buried their differences for the time being and are, for the first time, jointly fighting the elections against their common foe, the BJP, with a four-three seat arrangement. While the BJP won all seven seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections with staggering margins, the AAP had reversed the lead everywhere in the Assembly polls. Going by the results of the last Parliamentary election, the alliance between AAP and Congress may not be enough to take on the BJP. But, both the parties have had a similar support base—working class, Dalit and Muslim—that makes vote transfer between them easy even without the requisite effort by the respective organisations. Besides, the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal has brought him, rather than Modi to the centre stage, notwithstanding the recent and damaging controversies. The BJP has had to contend with dissatisfaction with its MPs and replace six of its seven sitting MPs.

States with Smaller swings for INDIA
In Uttar Pradesh, this phase is as big numerically as the previous one—14 seats are going to the polls, of which two are in Awadh and the rest are in Poorvanchal. Things appear to be getting tougher for the BJP as the election moves eastward. In the 2019 elections, even though the BJP had won nine of these 14 seats, its overall vote share of 45.7 per cent was much lower than its state-wide average of 50.8 per cent. The Samajwadi Party-BSP alliance had not done too badly, securing five seats (four for the BSP) and 44.9 per cent votes. In other words, even small swings of a per cent or two can make a huge difference in this phase, provided the SP-Congress alliance can occupy the space earlier occupied by the BSP.

A look at the 2022 Assembly election vote shares strengthens this possibility. In addition to Azamgarh, which the SP won in 2019, in 2022, the SP and Congress put together had leads in 4 more seats : Jaunpur, Bhadohi, Ambedkar Nagar and Lalganj. Thus the SP-Congress alliance is well placed to contain the BJP at its earlier tally. If anything, minor swings in favour of INDIA, especially in seats such as Sultanpur, Allahabad and Shravasti, might result in the SP-Congress alliance finishing ahead of the BJP.

While the BJD is well-entrenched in the state and its organisation and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s popularity, especially among women, cannot be taken lightly in the Assembly polls, the BJP, which has campaigned on the Hindutva and Odia Asmita planks, senses a stronger undercurrent in its favour this time and hopes to overtake the BJD in the three seats it lost by thin margins last time.

In Bihar, eight seats of the northwestern part of the state (also known as Tirhut) adjoining the easternmost part of Uttar Pradesh and Nepal will be going to polls. NDA won all eight last time, seven of them by huge margins ranging from 20-35 per cent. One seat contested by the JDU—Siwan had seen a closer contest of a 12 percentage points (pp) victory margin.  Another seat, Valmiki Nagar was won comfortably by the BJP in 2019, but in a bye-election in 2020, it scraped through with a margin of barely 2 pp.

If we go by the 2020 Assembly election vote shares and aggregate them to the Parliamentary Constituency level then there is unlikely to be much change this time—except in Siwan, where the Janata Dal (United) may lose to the Rashtriya Janata Dal. The Congress can eke out a narrow win in Maharajganj if there is a swing of just one per cent in INDIA’s favour compared to the Assembly election.

Nevertheless, not too many gains should be expected by INDIA in this phase, which has a higher than average upper caste presence.

States where NDA may hold its leads
In West Bengal, voting shifts to the south western region of the state bordering Jharkhand. It is again the BJP’s turn to defend its unexpected gains—out of the eight seats in this phase, the BJP had won five in 2019 including the tribal-concentrated constituencies of Jhargram (ST), Purulia, Medinipur and Bankura which come under what is known as the Junglemahal region. Ever since the 2018 panchayat elections, the region has increasingly become aligned with the BJP. The RSS and the larger Sangh Parivar are quite active in the area.

While the TMC did regain lost ground in this region in the 2021 Assembly elections and was ahead in three of the four Lok Sabha constituencies (Jhargram, Medinipur and Bankura), the BJP, too, performed better here than it did in other parts of the state and will be looking to repeat its 2019 performance. The growing demand among Kurmis for ST status and the presence of independent candidates from the community is a factor to watch out for. Three of the remaining seats (Contai, Tamluk and Ghatal) are the so-called bastion of the Adhikari family which has shifted allegiance to the BJP. The BJP did better in these seats in the 2021 assembly, as compared to 2019, and its performance in 2024 may determine how far Suvendu Adhikari’s star rises.

Across the border from West Bengal, the constituencies of Ranchi, Dhanbad, Giridih and Jamshedpur in eastern Jharkhand will also be voting. Most of these seats are semi-urban and were won by BJP and its partner the All Jharkhand Student Union Party (Giridih) with massive margins ranging from 22 to 39 per cent. INDIA, however, has a good chance of winning the Jamshedpur seat this time as parties that constitute it had been ahead of the BJP in terms of vote share during the 2019 Assembly elections.

In Odisha too, some of the relatively more urbanised parts of the state (Bhubaneswar and Cuttack) along with many rural parts (Keonjhar (ST), Sambalpur, Dhenkanal and Puri) will be going to the polls in this phase and the BJP is hoping to make gains. In 2019, the BJP won the Sambalpur (Dharmendra Pradhan’s seat) and Bhubaneswar seats, while BJD won the rest.

While the BJD is well-entrenched in the state and its organisation and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s popularity, especially among women, cannot be taken lightly in the Assembly polls, the BJP, which has campaigned on the Hindutva and Odia Asmita planks, senses a stronger undercurrent in its favour this time and hopes to overtake the BJD in the three seats it lost by thin margins last time.

In sum, while gains and losses for the BJP in the eastern part might balance each other out, the BJP may be set back by 10 seats or so, thanks to losses in Haryana and Delhi.



2019 Seats Position and Adjusted Position


Phase 6






Uttar Pradesh 14 9 1 (+4) 4 (-4)
Haryana 10 10 (-2) 0 (+2)
West Bengal 8 5 (-2) 3 (+2)
Bihar 8 4 4 (-1) 0 (+1)
Delhi 7 7 (-7) 0 (+3) 0 (+4)
Odisha 6 2 4
Jharkhand 4 3 (-1) 1 0 (+1)
J&K 1 1
Total 58 40 (-12) 5 (-1) 0 (+5) 5 (+12) 8 (-4)
  45 (-13) 5 (+17) 8 (-4)

Note: Figures in brackets denote change in seat positions after calculating parliamentary constituency leads based on Vidhan Sabha election results. Adjustment takes into account current seat distribution within NDA and INDIA.

For Uttar Pradesh, RLD’s Vidhan Sabha election vote share was included in NDA

For Odisha, since Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha elections took place simultaneously, the latter has been considered and hence no gains/losses have been calculated.

For J&K, Lok Sabha 2019 result considered as Vidhan Sabha elections were not held.