The results of the elections to Assemblies of five States, particularly Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, could come as a big jolt to the BJP not just in terms of the possible loss of power in at least two States but could trigger a more serious loss of nearly 40 Lok Sabha seats in these States.
Even if the actual results go the BJP way in most of these States, the BJP is staring at a loss of nearly 100 Lok Sabha seats in the northern and western parts of India, if the SP and BSP combine works in Uttar Pradesh. Forty of these seats come in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh.
The worry for PM Modi is not just a decline in his personal popularity and ability to win elections for the party. It is the emergence of a distinct possibility of several regional parties favouring a third front instead of the BJP-led NDA. Buoyed by the success of the go-it-alone-policy, parties like the TRS in Telangana, the YSR Congress in AP and the BJD in Orissa may prefer to stand on their own legs in the next Lok Sabha polls.
With the BJP struggling to retain power in its own strongholds, regional parties are likely to keep a distance from the BJP. This is the biggest scare for the BJP in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls.
Allies like the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and even minor allies could flex their muscles and demand a higher share of seats. Rumblings are already felt in Bihar where some of its allies are upset with the seat adjustment between the BJP and JD(U), while turning down the demand of the smaller parties.
With Chandrababu-led TDP jumping ship and opting for an alliance with the Congress, the NDA has already shrunk in size. The firming up of the JD(S) alliance with the Congress to form the government in Karnataka has larger national ramifications in terms of opposition unity against the NDA.
The ability of Congress president Rahul Gandhi to launch a strong national movement against the BJP will no longer be questioned. Leaders of the third front will realize that they will have to do business with the Congress if they have to dislodge the NDA from power. In that sense, the results of the five States could throw up new equations by which the opposition parties would have to realize ground realities and shape alliances or local seat adjustments.
The BJP is hoping against hope that when counting takes place on December 11, it will retain power in at least Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh so that it can present a scoreboard of two to one against the Congress.
On the other hand, if the Congress wins two of these three States, it can present to the nation that there is a beginning of a wave or a momentum against the BJP with even its strongholds turning against the saffron party. A swing against the BJP and in favour of the Congress in the Hindi heartland could be a huge psychological moment in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls. If the Congress crosses the hump in a direct fight against the BJP for the first time since 2014, it could be seen as a game changer.