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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

The lack of strong local leaders will hamper the BJP in the south

This is because of a range of reasons: an absence of strong local leaders; the continued perception that the BJP is a party of the north and Hindi belt; the absence of strong religious polarisation on a Hindu-Muslim axis; the depth of regional sentiment in southern states; the party’s weak organisation; and the relatively limited appeal of Mr Modi, which means his charm cannot necessarily overwhelm all other local factors.

editorials Updated: Feb 12, 2019 11:16 IST

Hindustan Times
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP National President Amit Shah in New Delhi, January 12, 2019
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP National President Amit Shah in New Delhi, January 12, 2019(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
         

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi went on a political offensive in the southern states. The south, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had recognised back in 2014 itself, would be important for its expansion plans. Losses in north, west and central India — where the BJP had peaked — had to be compensated for by gains in the east and south. While the party has indeed made considerable gains in the east, it has not been able to make inroads in the south in any substantial manner.

This is because of a range of reasons: an absence of strong local leaders; the continued perception that the BJP is a party of the north and Hindi belt; the absence of strong religious polarisation on a Hindu-Muslim axis; the depth of regional sentiment in southern states; the party’s weak organisation; and the relatively limited appeal of Mr Modi, which means his charm cannot necessarily overwhelm all other local factors. This is a matter of deep worry for the party. Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana send 129 MPs to the Lok Sabha. Getting even 20 of those seats is an ambitious task for the BJP at the moment.

One state in which the nature of the challenge is quite clear is Andhra. The contest here is bitter and personal, as evident in Mr Modi’s sharp personal barb at CM N Chandrababu Naidu for stabbing his father-in-law in the back and Mr Naidu’s retort about how Mr Modi had left his wife. Mr Naidu also went on a day-long hunger strike in Delhi on Monday on the issue of special status to Andhra, and turned it into yet another occasion for showcasing opposition unity. There are 25 seats in Andhra. But it also has simultaneous assembly polls. The BJP knows that on its own, it can do little in the state, but wants to ensure that it is not seen as “anti Andhra” as Mr Naidu has branded it. It would also rather have Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) win the state since it is bitter about Mr Naidu leaving the NDA. YSRCP could be a potential post poll ally. Mr Naidu’s all out attempt to discredit the BJP, and the BJP’s larger southern offensive, and particularly aggression in Andhra Pradesh, can be understood as a part of this political matrix.

First Published: Feb 11, 2019 17:46 IST