By Kalyani Shankar
After the big win in the Bihar Assembly poll this month, the BJP is focusing on the South where three states – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Puducherry are going for polls early next year. Elections are scheduled for West Bengal and Assam also.
Will the BJP achieve its goal? Success has been eluding the saffron party as its penetration so far has been only in Karnataka. It has failed in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala because of historic, religious, social, and ideological reasons
In Tamil Nadu, the BJP has firmed up its poll alliance with the ruling AIADMK during the weekend. Eyebrows were raised at this early announcement when the Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister and party coordinator O. Pannerselvam announced at a function attended by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Though AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa had a good equation with Prime Minister Modi, she did not go for a tie-up with BJP in the 2016 polls. After her demise, in 2019 the UPA (led by DMK 23, Congress 8, CPI 2, CPM 2, IUML 1, and VCK 1) made it in 37 of the 40 seats won. BJP went with the AIADMK.
BJP now wants to piggyback a ride on the AIADMK just as the Congress is in alliance with the DMK. The smaller parties like the DMDK, PMK. VCK and others choose the DMK or AIADMK coalition according to the situation
The BJP has strengthened its Tamil Nadu unit by appointing Murugan, a lawyer as its chief and has also activated its workers. There has been a recruitment spree in the state since 2014. It has brought to its fold celebrities, bureaucrats, and politicians from other parties. Recently, the actor-turned-politician and Congress spokesperson Khushbu’s joining the BJP was a significant event.
Why is the BJP unable to make inroads in Tamil Nadu?
First of all the saffron party had no tall leaders to match the iconic Dravidian leaders like M. Karunanidhi, J. Jayalalithaa, and M.G. Ramachandran. It is likely to be Modi versus Stalin now.
Secondly, The BJP is perceived to be a North Indian Brahminical Party and the name Brahmin is anathema to the Dravidian parties.
Thirdly, Tamil Nadu saw a huge anti-Hindi agitation in the sixties. The Dravidian parties are against any imposition of Hindi and the Modi government is in favor of Hindi.
Fourthly, influenced by the anti-Brahmin movement of the fifties and sixties many caste-based parties like the Vanniyars (dominant in northwest parts of Tamil Nadu, Thevars (dominant in southern Tamil Nadu, in the Madurai belt) and Gounders (in the western Tamil Nadu’s Kongu belt, have sprung up in the last three decades resulting in the splintering of votes.
Fifthly, the BJP’s stand on conversion to Christianity and its hostility to Islam and religion have no takers in the south. BKP’s polarising tactics won’t work in the South.
Sixthly new parties have sprung up with two untested superstars – Kamal Hasan and Rajnikant on the horizon.
The DMK chief M.K. Stalin has been making poll preparations for some months. He has already announced an alliance with Congress. IN 2019 Lok Sabha, the Congress –DMK combination swept the polls. The State has been alternating between the DMK and AIADMK it is the turn of the DMK. Only in 2016, the AIADMK got a second term.
The neighbouring Puducherry often reflects Tamil Nadu politics. In any case, it is a small Union Territory and has just one seat in Lok Sabha. Currently, Congress is ruling in the state.
Kerala is a different story. The left-led LDF and the Congress-led UDF alternate in power. The next turn is for the UDF. The BJP has not been able to penetrate much despite the good work done by the RSS.
Further, the Kerala electorate consists of a sizeable number of Christians and Muslims. This was a result of the social reform movement led by Narayana Guru. They remain non–BJP voters.
In 2019, the LDF posted a landslide victory winning 19 of the 20 seats while the UDF won just one seat and the BJP nil. The RSS tried to mobilize on the Sabarimala issue but the counter mobilization presented an effective alternative Control.
With more literate voters, Kerala alternates between the Communists or anti-Communists. The BJP is seeing slow growth. While the minority communities in the state have successfully ensured the protection of their respective cultures, the Hindu community has relentlessly ceded its own cultural space. The BJP is taking advantage of it.
Also, the BJP is facing factionalism in Kerala. The RSS has also cautioned the central leadership that the friction in the state unit could impact the performance in the polls.
Kerala won kudos in containing the Covid. A few months ago it looked as if the LDF could return to power but that came to a screeching halt in July after the CM’s office’s alleged involvement in a gold smuggling scam.
It remains to be seen whether the BJP can consolidate its Hindu votes in the South. (IPA Service)