The BJP's stakes are high in the assembly polls announced on Saturday as the saffron party is in power in four states - Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipura, while the Congress is ruling the state of Punjab.
The biggest challenge of the BJP is not only to retain these four states but also to make its political presence felt in Punjab which the saffron party is jointly contesting with Amarinder Singh's Punjab Lok Congress and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa's Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt).
The ruling BJP is leaving no stone unturned to retain four states and win Punjab as this election will set the political narrative in the country for the next general elections.
BJP's loss in Uttar Pradesh and other states will strengthen the opposition and will also give a shot in the arm to much talked about opposition unity. Similarly, retaining Uttar Pradesh will boost BJP's chances for the next general elections.
Uttar Pradesh will vote in seven phases - on February 10, 14, 20, 23, 27, March 3 and March 7.
"It is always believed that the Uttar Pradesh assembly poll results will set the tone for the Lok Sabha polls. Similarly, Uttar Pradesh assembly polls this time will also set the agenda either in favour of BJP or against it in the run up for 2024 general elections. Uttar Pradesh, the biggest state with 403 assembly and 80 Lok Sabha seats, is politically very important," a BJP leader said.
To blunt the opposition charges -- of the existence of anti-incumbency against its state government, Covid mismanagement during the second wave, farmers' protests and other issues, the BJP is aggressively sticking to the developmental issues emphasising the development of state taking place only due to 'double engine' government.
The BJP, however, claims that there is no anti-incumbency against any of its state governments and highlights several infrastructural projects completed and welfare measures taken in the last five years.
In 2017 polls, the BJP had swept Uttar Pradesh along with its alliance partners by winning about 325 seats in 403 member assembly. This time Samajwadi Party (SP) is emerging as the biggest challenger for the BJP. The saffron party is also a little worried about the SP-RLD alliance which may work against it in Western Uttar Pradesh.
A senior BJP office-bearer claims that people have already decided to elect the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh. "The love and blessings we received during 'Jan Ashirwad Yatras' in all the 403 assembly constituencies is clearly showing people have already made up their mind to elect the BJP government to continue uninterrupted development of the state," he said.
The BJP is campaigning aggressively to gain political ground in Punjab after its alliance came to an end with Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in 2020 on controversial three farm laws. The saffron party leaders believe that Punjab Lok Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) will make political gains in the state. The result will also show whether the repeal of three farm laws benefited the BJP and its alliance partner or not in Punjab.
In Goa, where the BJP is in power for 10 years and will be contesting assembly polls for the first time after the death of its biggest leader Manohar Parrikar, is facing challenges from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Congress and debutant Trinamool Congress (TMC).
In Uttarakhand, whether changing three chief ministers in four months has benefited the BJP or not will be found out after the assembly poll results. In March, BJP had made Tirath Singh Rawat Chief Minister of Uttarakhand replacing Trivendra Singh Rawat. In July Tirath Singh was replaced by Pushkar Singh Dhami. The BJP has set a target of winning over 60 seats in the next assembly polls in Uttarakhand. In the last assembly polls in 2017, the BJP won 57 seats.
Punjab, Goa and Uttarakhand will vote on February 14.
The BJP is trying to retain Manipur on the issues of development, and 'bandh, blockade' free state in the last five years. The BJP had won 21 of the 60 seats in the 2017 Manipur Assembly polls and formed the government with support from regional parties.
Manipur will vote in two phases on February 27 March 3.