Watch Nidhi Razdan: BJP targets 370 seats in India’s parliament Video Credit: Gulf News

India’s Prime Minister Modi has set the tone for the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Lok Sabha campaign with a call for the party to win 370 seats and for its NDA alliance to cross 400. It is a target that he is now repeatedly talking about as the BJP hopes to ride back comfortably for a third straight term in power. 370 is not a random number.

It symbolises the law which gave Jammu and Kashmir its special status under Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which was hollowed out by parliament in August 2019. This was one of the major goals of the RSS-BJP combine for decades and why 370 is a special number for them.

Addressing the party workers recently, Modi said they should set the target of winning 370 seats as a tribute to Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of the Jana Sangh, the political arm of the RSS. But beyond the political rhetoric, is the 370 mark realistically possible for the BJP and how can it get there? Even BJP leaders admit it won’t be easy.

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This is how the numbers stack up. In the 2019 general elections, the BJP won 303 seats on its own. Which means they have to win 67 more seats this time to reach the 370 target. The challenge is from where. The party is expecting to do well again in Uttar Pradesh which sends the largest number of MPs to parliament with 80 seats.

Last time, the BJP won 62 seats here but they hope the Ram Temple campaign will push them above the 70 mark in 2024. But will the newly announced Congress-Samajwadi Party seat sharing pact make a dent? 
Then there is another challenge. The BJP has already maxed out in other key Hindi heartland states in 2019 winning all the Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan, Haryana and Gujarat.

They won all but one seat in Madhya Pradesh and all but two in Chhattisgarh, while the NDA only lost one seat in Bihar. In the southern state of Karnataka, the party won all but one of the seats. So in order to cross 370 this time, the BJP will have to, at the very least, retain all these seats, which is not going to be easy.

According to pollster Axis My India, the NDA had a strike rate of 94% in their strongholds in 2019 spread across all these states plus some more like Delhi, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Jammu and Jharkhand. They won 198 of the 210 seats here. That leaves the question -- where can the BJP hope to improve its tally. Maharashtra will be key.

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BJP's lofty target

The state has the second highest number of Lok Sabha seats in the country with 48 and in 2019, the BJP-Shiv Sena combine won 41 seats. Since then, the Shiv Sena has split and ground reports suggest a sympathy wave in favour of Uddhav Thackeray’s faction which is in alliance with the Congress. That explains why the BJP has been giving much love and attention to Maharastra (through the ED) where assembly elections are also due later this year.

According to Axis My India, there are 11 regions spread across UP, Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and others which account for 285 seats where the NDA only had a strike rate of 40%. These are the areas where the BJP needs to pick up seats to achieve their 2024 targets.

The party has been looking particularly closely at the 133 Lok Sabha seats they contested and lost in 2019 in which almost half are in the south, not exactly a BJP stronghold. In over 70 of the 133 seats, the BJP came in second place including from Bengal, UP and Tamil Nadu. Ground reports suggest the BJP could pick up seats in Bengal, Telangana, and even Tamil Nadu.

The 370 target therefore for the BJP alone looks tough but nothing can be ruled out in politics. Many factors are at play on the ground, including a weak opposition and general wave of support in the north following the Ram temple inauguration. But farmer protests, the arrest of a tribal Chief Minister Hemant Soren, and other issues could still be a spanner for the ruling party.