Till now the BJP has not been able to make considerable gains south of the Vindhyas, except in Karnataka. In 2009, from the four southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, which together have 129 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP won only 19 seats, all from Karnataka. The BJP-led NDA marked its presence in 1999 in other southern states through regional parties like the DMK in Tamil Nadu and the TDP in Andhra Pradesh. The South has been a blind spot for the party for quite some time but this time round, the BJP is focusing extensively on these states and hopes to do much better.
BJP president Rajnath Singh has said that the party’s performance in Tamil Nadu will surprise poll pundits and some senior leaders even claim that the BJP will win 50 seats from the South alone. Many top BJP leaders, including its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, and senior leaders like LK Advani have toured the South to boost the party’s electoral prospects.
In Karnataka, the return of BS Yeddyurappa and B Sriramulu to the BJP fold is a shot in the arm for the party, which lost the 2013 assembly election to the Congress. The BJP hopes to win more than half of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state. In Tamil Nadu, where the BJP has got into an alliance with five regional parties, the saffron party might upset the poll equation. The AIADMK, with which, it is likely to enter into a post-poll alliance, is expected to win a majority of the 39 seats in the state. However, the BJP may eat into the AIADMK’s upper caste vote share and this will help the DMK. In Kerala, the BJP has an outside chance of winning in Thiruvananthapuram and Kasargod. In Andhra Pradesh, the BJP has pinned its hopes on N Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP. There is anger against the Congress for its mishandling of the bifurcation of the state and that might help the BJP-TDP alliance.
The BJP has big expectations from these four states. There is a ‘Modi Wave’ in the South, where many people are aware of the Gujarat chief minister and his development agenda. This might increase the BJP’s vote share but it is to be seen if this will result in an increase in the number of seats the party will win. However, for a party that has not seen an active presence in the South, this is in itself an achievement.