2019 General Assembly election: Will South India be a challenge for BJP?
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2019 General Assembly election: Will South India be a challenge for BJP?

Author: Thamanna Abdul Latheef   26 May 2018

2019 General Assembly election: Will South India be a challenge for BJP?

Karnataka assembly election 2018 was one of the crucial elections that both BJP and Congress have targeted. It was a chance for the BJP to march down to south whereas the Congress’s fight was to mark its presence in the Indian politics. Now, all eyes are now on the remaining four states in the southern region, where the BJP is not in power, and what this portends for the 2019 general elections.

The results of the Karnataka elections to the 15th Assembly was a game changer as the BJP fell far short of its avowed target of Mission 150 and ended up winning 104 seats out of 222. Even though Yeddyurappa had to resign as chief minister on Saturday evening, after being sworn in on Thursday morning, there is no escaping the fact that Congress’s performance in the elections fell far short of its expectations. Of the all five southern states, it was in just Karnataka that BJP got a noteworthy number of seats in the 2014 general elections.

Snapped the Knot of Alliance with NDA over Special Status for Andhra Pradesh

In the then undivided Andhra Pradesh, it won three seats with a vote share of 8.5%. However, four years on, the political landscape had undergone a massive change. Even the former ally Andhra Pradesh CM N Chandrababu Naidu snapped the knot of alliance with the NDA government at the Centre over the denial of special category status for Andhra Pradesh. From then on, he has been extremely critical of BJP and had pleaded the Telugu population in Karnataka to vote against the BJP in the assembly polls.

The leaders in TDP believes that the BJP is no threat to the TDP in Andhra because the party has no political base there, and there is no power vacuum that it can hope to fill. However, during Karnataka elections, Naidu tried to dissuade Telugu voters from supporting BJP. But in Hyderabad Karnataka where most Telugu people reside, BJP has increased its tally from 6 to over 20.

Telangana Against BJP and Congress

The scenario in Telangana is somewhat different as CM K Chandrasekhar Rao has spent the last couple of months visiting leaders in non-BJP ruled states to drum up support for his non-Congress, non-BJP “Federal Front”, with an eye on a larger national role in the upcoming elections. He has already met West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, HD Deve Gowda in Karnataka and DMK working president MK Stalin, though there has been no kind of formal agreement with any party.

In Telangana, the Congress is the major threat than BJP as in the last assembly poll, TRS won 63 seats, Congress 22 and BJP nine. In Telangana, there was even a chance that TRS and BJP might have an electoral understanding, considering their ideological proximity.

Tamil Nadu: It Ain’t Easy

In Tamil Nadu, which is a prisoner of the perception that it is pro-Hindi-Hindu and anti-Tamil, it would be tough for BJP to mark its footprints. With BJP getting just a single seat, AIADMK swept the general elections in 2014. Its vote share shrank further in the assembly polls in 2016, to 2.86%. The political tide has since largely swung against the BJP, with Modi being greeted by protests over the Centre’s inability to resolve the Cauvery dispute.

Kerala: Right vs Left

CPM-ruled Kerala, where the BJP opened its account with one seat in the previous assembly election, is also firmly in Shah’s crosshairs. The party has been slowly but steadily increasing its vote share from 4.75% in the 2006 assembly polls to over 15% in 2016.

An upcoming by-poll in Chengannur on May 28 is being fiercely contested by the CPM-led Left Democratic Front, Congress-led United Democratic Front and BJP, with reports that Central ministers from Delhi might be coming down to the campaign, as they did for Karnataka. The BJP might still wind up in third place but it would be interesting to see how many votes it acquires. The CPM has been aggressively countering the BJP on various fronts, with Finance Minister Thomas Isaac initiating a conclave of southern finance ministers against the 15th Finance Commission’s Terms of Reference.

Even though the Congress has retained Karnataka through its alliance with JD (S), the lack of a clear directive still raises questions about the leadership of Rahul Gandhi. With Karnataka slipping out of its hands by a whisker, BJP wouldn’t want to miss another opportunity in the coming elections. So, it is very clear that the party knows that if Amit Shah’s Mission 400 in 2019 has to be achieved, it will need to expand its base and breach the southern wall.

By: Thamanna Abdul Latheef C

thamanna@molitics.in

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