The BJP’s claim of ‘400 paar’ is a joke, ‘300 paar’ is impossible and even ‘200 paar’ may be a challenge for it in the Lok Sabha polls, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor has said, asserting that it is a “foregone conclusion” the ruling party would lose its majority in the Lower House.

In an interaction with PTI editors at the agency’s headquarters here, Tharoor also claimed the BJP will draw a blank in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and will do worse than its 2019 performance in the South.

Tharoor, who was locked in a three-way contest with Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar of the BJP and P Raveendran of the CPI in Thiruvananthapuram where polling took place on April 26, said he is looking at a “very comfortable win”.

If he emerges victorious, it will be a fourth consecutive win for the author-politician from Thiruvananthapuram, who is the longest-serving MP from the constituency.

Back in Delhi after a nearly two month high voltage campaign in Thiruvananthapuram, the Congress Working Committee member will now canvass in other parts of the country, being a sought after campaigner due to his oratory skills and celebrity status.

Asked how it was looking for the Congress and the INDIA bloc after two phases of the polls, the former Union minister said, “190 seats have voted so far and what I am picking up from my sources, it is tremendously positive for our side. We are not suggesting that there is an overwhelming wave but there certainly isn’t one for the government.”

“In fact, many who have been following elections for some time say that the difference between this election and the ones in 2014 and 2019 is that the predominant emotion of the BJP voters appears to be indifference and lack of enthusiasm,” Tharoor said during the freewheeling interaction.

In his view, Congress members are feeling “cautiously optimistic” about many places in Hindi-speaking states that have voted so far.

“So, I would say that on balance, we are far more ahead than we would have expected at this time. Of course, there are five more phases to go in this unnecessarily protracted election,” Tharoor said.

Asked how many seats the Congress and the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) would get in the polls, Tharoor said in a lighter vein that he does not predict scores even as a cricket fan but only predicts victories.

“I would say that right now it looks increasingly likely that the BJP-NDA government will lose its majority. The BJP losing its majority seems to be a foregone conclusion,” Tharoor said.

In six states, he pointed out, the BJP won every seat, while in three states, it won all but one seat, and in two states, it won all but two seats. This, he said, is “simply not replicable”.

“In Haryana, the Congress won no seats and the (opinion) polls are indicating five-seven seats for us this time. In Karnataka, we won one seat and this time polls are ranging from 10-17, some are even saying 20,” he said.

In all the states that the BJP did so well, they are losing some seats even in a conservative analysis, he said.

“This 400 paar is a joke, 300 paar is impossible and (even) 200 paar may be a challenge for them (BJP) to get the way things are going.”

In Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, the BJP will get “zero” seats, he claimed. In Telangana, they got a handful of seats and would struggle to hold on to those, Tharoor said and added that the BJP would not be able to replicate its good show in Karnataka.

In 2019, the BJP won 25 out of 28 seats in Karnataka. In Telangana, it bagged four of 17 seats.

According to Tharoor, there is absolutely no doubt that the BJP is going to do worse than last time in the South.

“In the North, as I said, they did so well last time and it is impossible to replicate that. Both in the North and South they are coming down from where they were. How well we do and how well the INDIA bloc parties do is yet to be seen because after all 353 seats are yet to vote so there is still a big majority of the election yet to happen,” he said.

But all indications are that this is really an uphill struggle for the BJP and things are not going the government’s way, he added.

“I ask objectively, as an Indian citizen, why should a young man who voted for the BJP in 2014 because he was promised a job, still vote for the BJP 10 years later when he still does not have a job,” Tharoor said.

When all the economists are saying 80 per cent of India’s population have seen a decline in its income in the last 10 years, why should these 80 per cent want to vote for the BJP that has put them in that predicament, Tharoor argued.

He said that in 2014, the BJP ran on economics, but it was a disastrous government economically, and in 2019 it ran on national security with Pulwama and Balakot being the predominant theme across northern India.

“They (BJP) can’t run on economy this time because they mishandled the economy and people don’t have jobs and can’t buy in the market what they could a few years ago.

“They can’t run on national security because everyone knows that China has been nibbling away at our frontier and there are 26 out of 65 patrolling points that both armies used to patrol, which the Indian army no longer has access to now, and that is on Mr (Narendra) Modi’s watch so how is he going to beat his chest about national security,” he said.

“That leaves what… the ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ message, Ram mandir, the kind of inflammatory language we have been seeing and hearing from the PM and others, fear mongering about one community and attempting to polarise the election on religion. That tactic has really been overused in the country and those voting along those lines are already voting for the BJP… it no longer appeals to neutral voters,” Tharoor said.

The great strength of the BJP between 2009 and 2014 was how a lot of people who were not Hindutva voters got attracted to Modi’s economic message and voted for him, Tharoor said. Modi is losing them, he added.

“Similarly in 2019, voters who neither liked the economic message nor Hindutva, voted saying ‘this is a government that will keep us safe, look at Balakot’. All those arguments are gone now in 2024. How do you manage to win an election in this country on a brazenly communal agenda which appeals to a minority of the populous,” the Congress leader said.

He questioned the Election Commission for having the electoral process extend from March 16, when the schedule was announced, to counting day on June 4 and said it is “frankly preposterous”.

“It does not make any sense. I think somebody must explain. It is not as if there has been an increase in violence in the country. It is very surprising that the Election Commission should organise itself in this way,” Tharoor said, adding that many states could have had a single-phase election.

“We could have done and dusted this election much quicker, especially at a time when our PM is speaking about ‘one nation, one election’. Does it make sense to show that it takes us so long to conduct an election for one Sabha and that too after we have had so much experience conducting elections,” the 68-year-old leader said. –(PTI)