The BJP has been known to be unpopular in South India, there’s no denying. This is especially true in the case of Tamil Nadu and the Communist stronghold of Kerala. While Karnataka has been a swing state over the past two decades, the circumstances surrounding the BJP’s impressive victory in Karnataka could nonetheless indicate a sign of positive things to come.
The major reason behind the unpopularity of the BJP in the South can be attributed to the artificial Aryan-Dravidian divide created by southern political parties in the decades following independence. This has created an ‘Us vs Them’ mentality in South India against people and political parties hailing from the regions north of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. This fabricated stereotype has created fake cultural divisions in a nation that shares thousands of years of culture and history. The BJP is seen primarily as a ‘North Indian’ party, and the introduction of Hindi in the syllabus of southern states has only reaffirmed this belief.
However, while the BJP may have a bad reputation in South India, PM Modi certainly doesn’t. This is the political dilemma that Amit Shah and PM Modi may face were they to attempt to penetrate the political landscape of the likes of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The days leading up to the elections in Karnataka had a very clear undertone; that the ruling Congress Party was, again, attempting to create divisions within the Hindu community to steal Hindu votes from under the BJP’s nose. Congress leader and incumbent Chief Minister Siddaramaiah attempted to use the old-age ‘North vs South’ rhetoric after branding Yogi Adityanath a “Northern import”. The Congress had already granted the Lingayats special religion status in order to win over votes from the community that comprises atleast 10% of the voter population.
As was evident from the preliminary results of the Karnataka Assembly Elections, these divisive tactics failed miserably. In a state that prides itself with its rich culture, language and history, the Kannadiga population saw through the dirty tactics that are ever so often employed by the Congress party. The failure of the politics of division in Karnataka could mean extremely good news for the BJP’s prospects of penetrating the political landscape of other southern states. Since divisive politics has been the main reason behind the unfortunate ‘Us vs Them‘ mentality prevalent in the south, as well as the subsequent poor popularity of the BJP in these states, the failure of these dirty tactics in Karnataka could well mean that there is a change in perspective in South India.
PM Modi enjoys immense popularity in states not under the BJP’s rule, especially with regard to his economic reforms and policies. Many have started seeing through the appeasement tactics of the Congress and look down upon its dynastic setup. The two states where the BJP can enter the fold in the future are Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, due to the comparative political transparency in the states as and when compared to the situation in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Tamil Nadu has been suffering from cult-leader politics, where state-run propaganda and the polarisation of political options has created a highly brainwashed voter base. The death of their beloved ‘Amma’ Jayalalitha has no doubt created a political vacuum that the the BJP can exploit.
The largest challenge will no doubt be the red state of Kerala, which is even further ahead of Tamil Nadu in terms of political options and state run propaganda. With RSS ground workers being attacked and killed on a monthly basis in the southern state, it will be crucial for the BJP to target the dissenting population in Kerala whose voices have been stifled by the unholy nexus of Communists and Radical Islamists.