Is South India the new Uttar Pradesh of Indian politics?
NEW DELHI: PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala on Sunday to address public gatherings and launch new projects could possibly be the BJP’s alternative route to sitting on the treasury benches in the 17th Lok Sabha after May 26 – and there are reasons why the party is feeling bullish rather than bluish over its electoral prospects down south.
It used to be said in Indian parliamentary politics that the party which captures a majority of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh (UP) gets to rule at the Centre – the southern states might just provide that extra heft for the BJP which has faced a drubbing in the recent assembly polls in the Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, along with losing Chhattisgarh.
People attend the public meeting in Madurai on Sunday
What’s on offer: In total, the five states and one UT (Puducherry) in South India – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana – offer 120 seats and except for Karnataka, where the BJP has a state government in power and 17 Lok Sabha seats out of 27, it’s a non-entity or thereabouts in all other states. It has just two seats – in the alliance – in Tamil Nadu, 0 in Kerala, where it was his second visit in less than 2 weeks and just 1 seat in Telangana, a leftover after its alliance partner TDP walked out of the NDA and 2 seats in Andhra Pradesh.
Options open: PM Modi, even while addressing a rally in Madurai where he laid the foundation stone for an AIIMS, refrained from criticising any of the regional parties – reserving his ire only for the Congress and the Communists with indications that the saffron party is considering an alliance with the ruling AIADMK, which won 37 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. In fact, earlier this year, Modi himself didn’t rule out the possibility of allying with the AIADMK. Then, of course, there’s the X-factor, in the form of Rajnikanth, the Tamil superstar whose admiration of Modi is no secret.
The Hindutva factor: The Supreme Court decision on Sabarimala – allowing women in the 10-50 age group entry to the Lord Ayyappa Temple – has come as a blessing for the BJP and its core constituency as the decision consolidated the staunch Hindus against the Kerala government of the communists who insisted of implementing the SC order, angering a majority of the Hindus. In fact, at his rally in Thrissur, Kerala, Modi pounced upon the opportunity to accuse the state government of being insensitive to the people’s cultural beliefs – a hint at the Sabarimala controversy. He also accused the UDF government of framing former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan for spying – the scientist, who was acquitted of all charges by the SC, was conferred the Padma Bhushan this year.
Source: Times of India