For the last few days, at least three general secretaries of the Bharatiya Janata Party sought to convey to the media, in off-the-record chats, that party president Amit Shah had fixed his eyes on 115 new, winnable seats that would offset the losses from the party’s existing tally in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. They said that this will help the saffron party return to power for the second time.

The information was tempting, and a few reporters fell for it, see here and here.

However, inherent in this admission is the fact that the BJP has conceded, for the first time, that it expects to lose over 100 of the 282 seats it won in 2014 in the next general election.

The BJP general secretaries insisted that the gain of 115 new seats would offset the “natural” losses in states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and others in 2019.

According to the BJP general secretaries, Shah identified these so-called winnable seats on the basis of surveys and feedback. “He is now confident of winning the Lok Sabha elections in 2019,” said one general secretary.

On August 23, when the party’s core groups from all states attended a day-long convention in Delhi, Shah pulled out select leaders for a separate two-hour meeting and discussed the list of these seats with them.

Shah advised them to draw up plans on how to target these seats by mid-October, and instructed state in-charges like Murlidhar Rao, Arun Singh, Siddharth Nath Singh and Mahendra Singh to assist them in this task.

Weak BJP presence

The 115 winnable seats that have been identified are in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, West Bengal and the North East.

However, what these BJP leaders did not say is that these are states where the BJP has traditionally been weak. The saffron party could win barely 15 out of nearly 200 seats in these regions even at the peak of the Narendra Modi wave in 2014.

Thus, the belief that Shah would perform electoral magic here in 2019 in the manner he did in the Hindi heartland in 2014 is hard to fathom.

The BJP president, no doubt, has boundless enthusiasm, and his no-nonsense style of functioning has won him admirers, as well as detractors. But will even Shah be able to increase the party’s tally in states that were cool to the BJP during the Modi wave of 2014?

Wobbly in Gujarat

It is equally interesting to note that the BJP leaders in question have admitted that they will lose seats not just in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, but also in Gujarat, the nerve centre of the BJP’s strength today.

It is hardly a secret that the BJP is in trouble in Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s home state. The latest glimpse of the party’s poor condition in Gujarat was provided on Thursday when Patidars stormed the venue of a programme organised in Surat to felicitate Amit Shah and the BJP’s Patel leaders. The event was part of the BJP’s preparations for Assembly elections in the state due late next year. The disruption forced Shah to cut short his address.

In a strict sense, therefore, the BJP’s calculation that it will lose in Gujarat as well as in many other states is a candid admission of the ground reality that has emerged in the two years since Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister.