After North East sweep, BJP looks south; Telangana in focus

The party has risen as a challenger to the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS), led by K Chandrasekhar Rao in Telangana, as demonstrated in a couple of Assembly by-polls where it emerged victorious and an impressive performance in the Hyderabad civic polls in 2020.

Chennai: The five southern states have a total of 129 Lok Sabha seats on offer and the BJP has a mere 29 of them in the current Parliament.

But bolstered by its excellent electoral show in the north-east in the just concluded polls and a changed scenario in some of the southern states between 2019 and 2024, the saffron party is looking at more voters from the south to give thumbs up in its bid to form the third NDA government in a row in 2024.

The elections scheduled in the party-ruled Karnataka and BRS-dominated Telangana later this year might just indicate if the political weather is conducive for the Lotus to bloom in the south, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has exuded confidence in the party emerging victorious in Kerala, from where the BJP has neither has an elected MP nor an MLA.

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The party has risen as a challenger to the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS), led by K Chandrasekhar Rao in Telangana, as demonstrated in a couple of Assembly by-polls where it emerged victorious and an impressive performance in the Hyderabad civic polls in 2020 has given it the much-needed impetus to take on the might of the ruling BRS in 2024.

Incidentally, KCR, as Rao is known, has thrown his hat into the ring in the efforts to dislodge the BJP government at the Centre next year, even as DMK President and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin is also being projected as a leader who could galvanise the anti-BJP forces to challenge the incumbent.

In the current LS scenario, all of the 29 seats BJP has are from its-ruled Karnataka and Telangana. In a sweeping victory, the saffron party won 25 of the 28 LS seats from Karnataka in 2019, while its backed independent from Mandya, Sumalatha, also made the cut.

Telangana returned four BJP MPs but the saffron party has nil representation from Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, dominated by the DMK, Congress and YSCRP, respectively in the Lok Sabha.

However, things have started looking up for the BJP in Tamil Nadu, the Dravidian heartland, party workers believe.

For instance, they point out, BJP won 4 Assembly seats in the state in the elections held in 2021, overcoming the DMK wave in constituencies, including one in Erode district, the birthplace of Dravidian stalwart and rationalist leader EV Ramasamy Periyar.

The party’s state unit has now set its eyes on winning 15 LS seats from Tamil Nadu in 2024 and insists it even has a strategy to take on the Dravidian major DMK, whose led alliance won the just concluded Erode East bypoll. NDA constituent AIADMK was defeated by Congress by a massive margin of over 66,000 votes.

The BJP feels that the 2024 Lok Sabha election in Tamil Nadu will be different from what it was in the past.

“This time we may contest 15 seats on the Lotus symbol after apportioning the remaining 24 Lok Sabha constituencies to our allies. We have already identified the winnable seats and selected those constituencies where we finished second in the previous elections,” said M Chakravarthy, BJP state vice president.

In the months to come several central ministers would visit the State to gear up the party for the poll. They would help in strengthening the BJP at the booth level, he said.

Asked if the infighting in the AIADMK would affect the NDA’s prospects at the hustings, Chakravarthy replied “the outcome of the Erode East Assembly by-poll is a lesson for the AIADMK to ponder if the party symbol (Two Leaves) alone is sufficient to win the election.”

“We already have a strategy in place to take on the DMK. We are waiting for the nod from the party high command to launch the campaign,” another senior leader in the party said.

The party won 1 seat in the 2014 parliamentary elections.

The fundamental shift in political dynamics in Tamil Nadu will prove advantageous to the BJP and on its own performance the BJP has made itself relevant, says K Annamalai, IPS turned politician who has been mandated by the party high command to send more MPs from the State this time.

“There is no social justice in the DMK. People have realised that the BJP alone can accommodate all sections and as a result, we have been gaining ground. We are going everywhere, as it is our duty to embrace all,” the state BJP chief said.

“I boldly tell my party men to perform….all those parties which accept Modi’s leadership are welcome to join our alliance,” Annamalai added.

Elsewhere, BJP sees Telangana as the next state in the south, after Karnataka, where it stands a chance of coming to power.

Though the party could win only a single seat out of the total 119 in the last Assembly elections in 2018, its strength grew to three subsequently following morale-boosting win in two bypolls.

It had also pulled off a stunning performance in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) election held in 2020.

With Congress, the original main opposition to BRS, failing to hold ground amid allegations of disunity in the party, the BJP has been making a determined effort since the last couple of years to emerge as the alternative to BRS in the Assembly elections scheduled to be held later this year.

However, dislodging the BRS is easier said than done in view of the ruling party’s vast network across the state and other strengths.

KCR has made an ambitious foray into national politics after changing the name of its Telangana Rashtra Samiti to Bharat Rashtra Samiti.

In the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, also a Telugu-speaking state, the BJP is aspiring to put up a good show but has its task cut out as the political space is dominated by two regional players–CM Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSRCP and N Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP.

Observers point out the recent high-profile ship-jumping from the BJP, with former state chief Kanna Lakshminarayan joining the Telugu Desam Party.

The saffron party is in alliance with actor-politician Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena who has also floated the idea of tying up with TDP, an idea the BJP is not favourably disposed to.

BJP may not have it easy in Kerala. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said people in the state are politically enlightened and due to this reason it would be difficult for the BJP to fulfill the Prime Minister’s dream of capturing power in the southern state.

When pointed out that the BJP has managed to form governments in many states including Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa and Arunachal Pradesh where the Congress or its allies had been major political players, the AICC general secretary said it is difficult to say if such tactics would help BJP to make changes in Kerala’s political landscape too.

CPI(M) state secretariat member M Swaraj said the BJP’s politics is based on the communal agenda of the RSS.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Siasat staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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