Friday 27 May 2022
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Modi’s winning strategy in South

The BJP’s hope of shoring up its Lok Sabha strength has brightened because of its ability to stitch together an that the party claims will surprise political pundits. According to a survey, the BJP and its allies are set to strengthen their position, winning up to six Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu, and between 17 and 21 seats in Andhra Pradesh. “We will get about 50 seats in southern India alone,” former BJP president M Venkaiah Naidu claims.

The with the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), Indiya Jananayaka Katchi (IJK) and Kongu Nadu Makkal Desiya Katchi (KMDK) that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) entered into in Tamil Nadu is seen as a game changer in the Dravidian State. “We will surprise electoral pundits this time with our performance in Tamil Nadu,” BJP president Rajnath Singh said. The saffron party is hopeful of winning the Kanyakumari and Coimbatore seats and expects its allies like Vaiko of MDMK to do well, with the overall tally for the coalition to be around 6 in Tamil Nadu.

BJP ally DMDK had performed splendidly in the 2011 state Assembly polls, winning 29 out of 41 seats it contested in with J Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK. The PMK polled 39.72% votes in 30 seats it contested. The MDMK, which got 3.66% votes in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, had boycotted the Vidhan Sabha polls. In all, the BJP alliance partners contesting separately received about 20% votes in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections — enough to disturb poll equations this time.

“We have joined the BJP front to defeat both DMK and AIADMK and form a third alternative in the State. Hence, we are doing everything to keep each other comfortable. Captain (Vijayakanth) will soon campaign for Anbumani as well,” said an associate of actor-turned-politician Vijayakanth. BJP leaders are happy about the development. “We have perfect understanding among our partners. We know that each other’s help is required to win this election,” said BJP state vice-president Vanathi Srinivasan.

All these years, the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) had been garnering votes of the Hindu right for want of better options in Tamil Nadu. The BJP’s high profile foray in the State for the Lok Sabha elections is going to wean a huge chunk of those votes away from Jayalalithaa’s party to Narendra Modi’s. Simultaneously, Modi’s OBC status coupled with the reach of its allies in Dalit and OBC strongholds will cost the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) dearly.

In Andhra Pradesh, the drama over the BJP’s late with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the latter’s threat to pull out of the coalition has now given way to an assurance from both the parties that matters have been sorted out by them. The TDP was upset over its ally nominating candidates such as Purandeswari, with whom N Chandrababu Naidu has not been on good terms, and others that the regional party considers weak. Now Modi has pitched in, asking the TDP to honour the alliance by withdrawing its candidates that are still campaigning for themselves, which is working against the candidates the BJP has fielded. The problem was that the local units of both parties were chary of ceding ground. “In Telangana there was a virtual revolt in the BJP against the alliance, and even now the RSS is wary of the alliance there. In Seemandhra, the BJP barely has a presence and appreciates the opportunity of gaining ground while the TDP is not happy with having to share scarce seats,” said a TDP leader.

But this affects the Seemandhra region alone. In Telangana, the BJP is appreciated as a party that for long had demanded statehood for the region. Overall in Andhra Pradesh, the TDP had polled 24.93% in the 2009 elections. The BJP expects Naidu’s organisational strength coupled with the Modi wave to work wonders in the both the regions.

Prakash Javadekar, the party in-charge for Seemandhra, has said the BJP will now fight 13 Assembly and four Lok Sabha seats in Seemandhra, thus conceding one Assembly seat to its partner. “In lieu of this seat, three legislative council seats will now be given to the BJP,” Javadekar said. The new State of Seemandhra has 25 Lok Sabha seats and 175 Assembly seats, and is going to polls on 7 May.

In Karnataka, the BJP may not repeat its 2009 performance, but it is not expecting a repeat of the 2013 Assembly election rout. With the return of Lingayat strongman BS Yeddyurappa and controversial leader B Sriramulu, who has considerable influence in Bellary and neighbouring constituencies, the BJP hopes to reach closer to its 2009 performance. It won 19 out of Karnataka’s 28 seats in the last election.

Both the Congress and AAP are on sticky wickets in Karnataka, a State that sends 28 MPs to the Parliament. At present, 19 MPs are of the BJP and 6 MPs are of the Congress. That said, Modi wave is the flavour of the season in the State in this Lok Sabha election, as a result of which the BJP is in a strong position to turn the tide in its favour by sending as many as 20 or more MPs to Parliament.

Apart from the local factors and caste and community permutations and combinations, another important issue that can play a decisive role in this election is that the number of voters has increased by a whopping 4.5 million since 2009 and half the electorate is below the of 40. Finally, while the voter turnout has been low in Karnataka as compared to that witnessed in other States, it is still higher than the 2009 figure.

“People want to throw out the incumbent government (Congress) because of their 10 years of misrule. They want to bring in a stable government under the leadership of Narendra Modi… they will vote for development,” BJP leader Ananth Kumar said. His own chances could have been low in case of a direct contest with the Congress’s Nandan Nilekani for the seat of Bengaluru (South). But another former Infosys man V Balakrishnan entering the contest on an AAP ticket queered the pitch for the Aadhaar man.

A survey by another television channel showed the BJP to be getting around 11 per cent of votes from Kerala. But the seats where the party is hopeful of victory are few (2 or 3); the percentage of votes obtained from there should not be stretched across the State. The local leadership of the BJP projects O Rajagopal to secure over 2.95 lakh votes out of the 68.67 per cent of the 12.67 lakh polled in Thiruvananthapuram, for example.

“We are sure that Rajettan will win and become a minister in the union cabinet. But Rajettan being a loyalist of L K Advani, and the state leadership which is closely associated with Narendra Modiji, in recognition of the state leadership’s role also will be given due consideration while forming the government,” a party leader said.

When contacted, BJP state president V Muralidharan said that the BJP had a good chance to win the Thiruvananthapuram seat this time. “We will meet on April 18 to analyse the data collected from across the state. If Rajettan wins, he will become the Minister. That will be the recognition for the state BJP,” he said, referring to the central party’s recognition of the State unit’s work.

Interestingly, this is a State where the Communists are considered pro-Hindu while the Congress is perceived as pro-Christian. The high attendance that Modi received in the rallies in Kerala is going to make life difficult for the Left Democratic Alliance (LDF), which is already on the wane since it lost the Assembly elections. The Congress-led United Democratic Alliance (UDF) is likely to retain much of Kerala.

Modi has wooed the backward Ezhava community, too, which constitutes the (M)’s backbone. The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate has got the chief of Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, the representative of Ezhavas, Vellappally Natesan, on the stage with him in Kochi. Modi’s strategy is to create a Dalit-backward classes coalition in Kerala under the BJP. If he succeeds, he will bankrupt the CPM of a traditional vote bank for the Left parties in the long run.

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