NEW DELHI: Less than a year left for the crucial 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the conversation among MPs has already turned to what will constitute a ‘safe’ seat for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The consensus of MPs of a cross section of parties is that like the last time he will contest from two seats---one in Gujarat, and the other in Uttar Pradesh.

But he is expected now to shift constitutencies to prove his reach, and to avoid any ‘no performance’ damage from sticking to him. In Gujarat, he had contested and won Vadodara Lok Sabha seat by over five lakhs, defeating Congress leader Madhusudan Mistri. He had given this seat up for Varanasi that he won and retained in 2014, as a signal that he was not just a leader of Gujarat but of all India.

However, sources said that in 2019 (or earlier) the Prime Minister will move out of Vadodara and is said to be looking at Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar or Surat. Gandhinagar is BJP leader LK Advani’s seat, while Surat had been the seat for a strong anti-GST protest that the ruling party was able to quell in the recent Assembly elections. The party is confident that if PM Modi selects Surat, the dissidence shown by the Patidars and the business community will be completely wiped out voluntarily.

Gujarat is also important now, more so after the good performance of the Congress in the recent Assembly elections that reduced the BJP to 99 seats. If PM Modi does not contest from the state it will be taken as a ‘victory’ by the Opposition with the Congress taking the credit for driving him out of his home state. Besides, the PM himself is adamant about retaining his hold on his home state.

Uttar Pradesh of course will be interesting. There are reports, more so after the BJP defeat in the recent Lok Sabha by polls in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, that the Prime Minister might move from east to western UP. He has not been able to visit Varanasi with little work being reported from the constituency since 2014.

The net is being cast for a new seat, and the search seems to be currently favouring Mathura in western UP. The BJP has been particularly active in this belt, and has been rallying support for a localised mandir-masjid issue in this city for almost a couple of decades now. The organisation is strong, with the front outfits as well as the RSS, firmly entrenched.

Besides, it will help the party consolidate the Jat vote completely and prevent the kisan factor from cutting into this crucial voter base.

The coming together of the Bahujan Samaj party and the Samajwadi party---if it holds till the elections---is also a cause of concern as it can upset BJPs calculations. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s relations with New Delhi are not exactly the best, more so as he was not the first choice of the Prime Minister for the top post after the Assembly elections. West UP is seen as a better bet in Delhi BJP’s calculations, and Mathura can be further justified as a holy city of the western part of the state.