State polls 2016 matter for BJP: Geographically & arithmetically

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Four states are going to the elections this summer and talks are mostly on how the BJP will fare in these tests. But why are elections in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu so important for the saffron party?

Extending party's base in East and South 

The first reason is that all these four states are significant in the BJP's scheme of things to have a more national impact. Despite Narendra Modi's presence, the BJP has not been able to make any permanent inroads in the eastern and southern parts of the country.

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Yes, the party has seen temporary successes (like its share went up to 17 per cent in Bengal in the 2014 Lok Sabha election) but the latest opinion polls have predicted little hope for the party except in the state like Assam. It even lost the state of Bihar, another key state in eastern India, last November.

Numbers in Rajya Sabha

But more than geographical, the East and South have an arithmetical significance for the BJP. The party although has a brute majority in the Lok Sabha, it has a weak position in the Upper House or the Rajya Sabha.

And this is where the state elections become extremely important. The state legislatures elect representatives to the Upper House where the BJP-led NDA's inadequate numbers have put up an obstacle before Modi's economic reforms. In fact, the shortage of numbers has become a big concern for the Modi government for it knows how fast time and patience are running out.

BJP alliance has just 64 seats in 245-member Rajya Sabha

The BJP and its allies have just 64 seats in the 245-member Rajya Sabha while the Congress-led UPA has 71 seats. The remaining 110 seats are occupied by various regional parties that are not alligned with any of the alliances led by the two national parties.

The ruling parties in the states that are going to polls this summer, namely, the AIADMK (of Tamil Nadu) and Trinamool Congress (of West Bengal) have 12 seats each in the Rajya Sabha. The BJP leadership, hence, is not in favour of annoying these parties much, no matter what happens on the ground and what it says on the face of it in election campaign rallies. The aim is just to get as close to 123 (halfway mark in the Rajya Sabha) as possible.

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