The BJP is often called as the ‘North Indian’ party or a party which is restricted to only the cow-belt. The party has worked relentlessly to shed that image and if the results from the North-East are anything to go by, the efforts are indeed bearing fruit. The BJP has peaked both electorally and politically, in the North and Western parts of India and the party will be looking to offset any losses suffered in these regions by making gains in the southern part of India, which has long eluded the party. Let’s take a look at the party’s journey in the southern states and it’s prospects in the upcoming Lok Sabha election.
The party has little or no presence in the state despite the best of its efforts. Whatever little momentum that the party gained in the 2014 elections seems to have lost with the crushing defeat in 2016 Assembly elections coupled with the total disintegration of its erstwhile rainbow alliance. However, the death of Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, arguably two of the tallest leaders the state has witnessed, it has thrown the state’s political equations wide open. It is no secret that BJP played a huge role in unifying the AIADMK post Jayalalithaa’s death. The BJP is pretty much piggybacking on AIADMK and exercising control over the weakened AIADMK. Stalin’s constant tirades against the party aside, the BJP shares an eloquent relationship with DMK and can tap the party for an alliance in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. However, the BJP’s best bet into gaining a foothold in the state is AIADMK, who voted in favor of BJP’s nominee for the Rajya Sabha deputy chair election. BJP has little organisational structure at booth level and lacks a face which could appeal to the state’s masses. The party perhaps realizes that Dravidian ideology remains paramount for the state’s masses and going solo would be foolhardy. Tamil Nadu has 39 Lok Sabha seats and can easily offset any losses that the party faces in its core constituencies. In all probability, BJP will ask a lion’s share of seats from AIADMK and the party will have to comply as there are too many skeletons in AIADMK’s closet(cash for votes scam for instance) to make an enemy in the Centre. AIADMK secured 41.06% of vote share in the Assembly elections and the BJP can realistically hope to win 10-15 Lok Sabha seats with a unified AIADMK minus the mannargudi clan. The DMK in all probability will ally with the Congress with the latter acting as a parasite party in the Assembly elections and reduced DMK’s vote share substantially. This is the best time for the party to expand its roots in a state where they had won just one Lok Sabha seat.
The BJP performed stupendously in the Karnataka Assembly elections and missed the majority mark by a whisker and the rest as they say is history. The Congress-JDS alliance might be in power but it’s anyone’s guess how long they will remain together and in all probability, the HD Kumaraswamy government will fall after the 2019 elections.While the BJP is following the strategy of building allies in South, Karnataka is a different ball game. The party’s organisational base is unrivaled and should go alone and take the Congress-JDS alliance head on. Yes, the BJP has indeed faced multiple setbacks in the state in the recent by-polls and the party must learn it’s lessons. The party seems to be in an upward trajectory now given the fact that in the Urban Local Body elections in the state, it finished a close second with a tally of 929 wards. This is the best-ever performance of the saffron party in Urban Local Body elections in the State.
The BJP has to be patient and watch the alliance unravel while simultaneously shoring up its organisational support. The alliance will certainly prevent any split of the minority vote and hence must consolidate the Hindu vote base. North Karnataka which has been largely ignored by the ruling alliance, can prove detrimental to the chances of the alliance in 2019. It is paramount that the state BJP stays away from any controversy especially graft allegations as graft and inefficiency of the government will be the focus of the party’s attack against the alliance. The party can expect to win 20+ seats in the state given the fact that 2019 will essentially be Modi vs All and neither Rahul Gandhi with an unhappy Siddharamiah or HD Kumaraswamy can pull votes in their name in the General Election.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana:-
The BJP won 2/20 in Andhra Pradesh and 1/17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana in 2014. It is clear that BJP is not a significant player and hardly has any people to people connect in these two states and will have to stitch up an alliance to stand any chance in these states. Telugu Desam Party’s decision to quit NDA will certainly hamper the party’s chances in Andhra but YSRC recent overtures towards the centre gives a feeling that YSRC might be open to joining the NDA if maneuvered carefully. The party will have to tide over the alleged anti-saffron wave over the issue of not granting special category status to the state. However, the Chandrababu Naidu led government is beset with allegations of corruption and Naidu is set to not give tickets to 40 sitting legislators in the upcoming elections as they are facing people’s ire. It appears that Naidu himself is jittery given the fact that he quoted $ 2-4 trillion for the city which is more than India’s GDP. BJP has set itself a goal of bagging 15 seats in 2019 and perhaps with a dedicated team of karyakartas and deft maneuvering of YSRC the party might well achieve its goal.
The KCR led TRS is pretty much invincible in Telangana and it will be in the best interests of the BJP to forge an alliance as far as Telangana is concerned and all signs are pointing to an alliance. KCR has sent signals to Delhi which have been promptly responded by the centre. KCR joining the NDA won’t just boost the alliance’s chances but will also deal a hammer blow to the so-called claim of opposition unity. Both strategically and electorally, it will be in the best interests of the BJP to forge an alliance with TRS.
Kerala is one of the last remaining communist citadels in India. The BJP has managed to increase its vote share substantially since 2014 but is yet to win more than a single seat in an election, barring local body polls. The party scored a blank in 2014 Lok Sabha and will face an uphill battle in the 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala in 2019. The party is trying to reinvigorate itself and has been very aggressive in recent times especially with the help of RSS. RSS is gradually increasing its footprint in Kerala and this might spell the doom of the Left in the state. The party lacks a leader in the state and the with the news pouring in that hugely popular Malayalam actor Mohanlal is set to contest on a BJP ticket from Thiruvananthapuram against Shashi Tharoor. Mohanlal might be the face of the party in Kerala and this would be just the spark BJP needed to make a dent in Kerala.
The BJP has absolutely nothing to lose in South India and must learn from its mistakes in past especially from 2004, where the party focused too much of its resources in the Hindi heartland which eventually led to its defeat. South India is largely facing a leadership vacuum and the party must lap this opportunity up. It’s now or never for the BJP as far as the South is concerned.