BJP, which has made its strong hold almost everywhere in North India, has been keeping its eyes on South India for a long time. South India is very important for BJP’s mission 2024. The five southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Kerala and Karnataka together account for 129 Lok Sabha seats. If BJP has to remain in power at the Center then it has to focus on increasing its number of seats in South India, which BJP is also doing. Kerala has 20 Lok Sabha seats. In the 2019 elections, the Congress won 15 seats from Kerala. Muslim League, 1 CPM, 1 KCM and 1 RSP got 2 seats. When Congress was weak everywhere, it got good seats in Kerala. BJP believes that this situation will not happen in 2024, because now people there are starting to see BJP as an alternative.
Although the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has been active in Kerala for many years, but the BJP could not get success here. In the previous assembly, BJP had one seat in Kerala, but BJP could not get a single seat in this assembly. Left has a strong hold in Kerala. The contest remains between the Left and the Congress. But the BJP expects that the Congress will lose its base in Kerala as it is being wiped out everywhere. After some time BJP will become the main rival in front of Left. The BJP says that when Prime Minister Modi met the Pope at the G20 summit last year, it sent a good message to the Christian community. In Kerala, 20% of the population is Christian. Recently, the issue of marriage of a Christian girl to a Muslim youth in Kerala arose. On this, BJP said that the issue of love jihad is not only a big issue for Hindus but also for Christians. The BJP is trying to make a mark in the Christian community here.
Karnataka to Tamil Nadu
Karnataka has 28 Lok Sabha seats, out of which BJP won 25 seats in the last election. The challenge for BJP is to sustain its performance here. Karnataka also has assembly elections next year. Yeddyurappa of BJP is the biggest leader of Lingayat community here. BJP removed him a few months ago and made Basavaraj Bommai the CM here. Although he also comes from the same community. Here 17% of the population belongs to the Lingayat community. That’s why BJP doesn’t want to upset Yeddyurappa. On the other hand, BJP in Karnataka is also battling with factionalism, the government is constantly being accused of corruption. BJP has to come out of this situation and improve its image here.
In the 2021 assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, the BJP won four seats by sharing seat with the AIADMK. After that, in the local body, BJP performed better than him. There is no BJP cadre in Tamil Nadu and BJP is trying to prepare it. There are 39 Lok Sabha seats here. In the last Lok Sabha elections, the DMK-led UPA won 38 seats. Only one seat came in the account of AIADMK. Here the BJP had an alliance with the AIADMK and contested five seats. Tamil Nadu is important for BJP’s mission 2024 because BJP is still zero here. Tamil Nadu is also challenging for it as the BJP is seen here as a party of North India, as well as its image of a Hindutva party, mostly Brahmins. At the same time, BJP is also accused that it is trying to impose Hindi on everyone. If BJP has to make its place in Tamil Nadu, then it will have to emotionally connect with the people here and come out of the image of Hindutva party trying to impose Hindi.
Andhra and Telangana Test
Telangana has 17 Lok Sabha seats. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP won four seats here. 9 seats went to TRS, 3 to Congress and one to AIMIM. The BJP is trying to establish itself as an alternative to the TRS, and to occupy the place that the Congress has now taken. BJP is also hoping from Telangana because it has won by-elections on two seats. Nearly 50% are OBCs in Telangana. But most of the upper castes are getting representation in power. BJP is taking forward the OBC leadership here. The current CM KCR himself is from the upper caste. The Velama community he belongs to is about 2% of the population in Telangana. The second powerful community here is the Reddys who are believed to be with the Congress. There are assembly elections in Telangana next year as well. This election can be a litmus test of BJP’s preparations for 2024.
In Andhra Pradesh, which has been a Congress stronghold for decades, the BJP has to compete with both the TDP and the YSRCP. When TDP was formed, it had challenged the Congress and when YSRCP was formed, the Congress’ space was greatly reduced. Congress is considered to be a party of all castes here but Reddy’s dominance is more. When TDP came to power with the star appeal of NT Rama Rao, he also did social engineering. The TDP is dominated by the Kamma community and the YSRCP is dominated by the Reddys like the Congress. When Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were separated in 2014, an atmosphere was created against the Congress. But then people’s displeasure was also seen against BJP on the issue of special status. In 2019, BJP had a very poor performance in Andhra Pradesh. However, the BJP believes that after 2019, the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has improved here. The image was strengthened due to the removal of Article 370 from Kashmir and then Corona Management. BJP is telling people here that YSRCP is corrupt just like TDP was corrupt, just the style of corruption of both is different. Right now the YSRCP is in power, so obviously the direct target is the same. BJP is trying to make the election triangular here. Andhra Pradesh has 25 Lok Sabha seats. YSRCP won 22 of these seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. TDP got three seats.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author.