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Why is PM Modi focusing more on Northern India than South?

Strategically, focusing on the northern states where BJP enjoys dominance can get the party maximum result that Southern states where the saffron party faces an immense challenge.

With just six months in hands to go for next Lok Sabha Elections, the BJP has already entered the electoral battleground. During the Kisaan Kalyan Rally in Punjab’s Malout, PM Modi rung the bell for 2019. The message was clear to all the opposition parties- The campaigning for 2019 has kick-started. Within next few days, Modi inaugurated a slew of projects worth thousands of crores in the BJP-ruled state of Uttar Pradesh. Today, he is addressing a rally in West Bengal.

According to the campaigning schedule, in next few days, PM Modi has already visited key states including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan where Assembly elections are due in next four months. With a whirlwind campaigning, PM Modi will be addressing as much as 50 rallies across India until February 2019.

However, if the schedule is observed closely, we will find that most of the rallies will be conducted in the northern states. While, Modi has already visited UP twice- first for the inauguration of Samsung factory in Noida and the second time for laying the foundation stone for the upcoming Purvanchal Expressway connecting Mirzapur to Azamgarh- he will be visiting UP again on July 21 for as a part of Kisan Kalyan Rally. Which means, the July 21st rally will be Modi’s third visit to Uttar Pradesh within the span of 10 days.

Northern India
Modi at Kisan Kalyan Rally in Punjab

There are, however, several reasons why Modi seems to give impetus to the northern states.

Why is Modi focusing on Northern India?

In 2014 Lok Sabha Elections, the BJP registered a landslide victory with an absolute majority riding the “Modi Wave”. Out of the total 282 seats that were won by the saffron party, 195 seats were from the Northern Hindi-speaking belt only. At present, most of these states have BJP government ruling them.

In Indian Politics, it is said that the road to Delhi (PM chair) passes through Uttar Pradesh. The state has the highest number of Lok Sabha seats. In 2014, BJP scored the maximum number of seats in Uttar Pradesh. Out of total 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state, BJP won 71 seats. The Modi-Shah duo understands it well that these states are the key player if the party wants to get close to the majority in 2019.

Since 2014, BJP has also emerged as the dominant player in most of the northern states. However, the recent by-poll losses have added to the worries of BJP. In UP, the BJP’s dominance is threatened by the cast coalition of SP-BSP which proved effective in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-polls. The arch rivals turned alliance partners have also indicated that coalition will extend to 2019 Lok Sabha as well. The by-polls victory of SP-BSP came as a lesson to the BJP that the caste equations still dominates the UP elections than a political pitch based on religion. Thus, to counter this growing threat BJP has intensified its Hindutva agenda, more prominently where it is a dominant party.

On the other hand, northern states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh hold importance not only from Assembly election perspective but also from Lok Sabha Election perspective. The assembly election result in these three states will also help set the tone of narrative for the Lok Sabha election. With Karnataka slipping off its hands, BJP cannot afford to lose these three states. As 2019 nears, Modi would want to strengthen the states where the party enjoys maximum support.

Northern India
Modi at a foundation laying event in UP

The “South challenge” in front of Modi:

While the BJP strengthened its foothold in the northern states post-2014, it is still struggling to make an effective debut in the South. Apart from Karnataka, BJP has never been able to make indoors in the Southern states. Even when the entire country was witnessing a peak of a Modi wave, the BJP couldn’t win significant seats in South.

Out of 282 seats, the four southern states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu together contributed only 21 seats to the tally of BJP. While BJP won 17 constituencies in Karnataka and 2 seats in Andhra Pradesh, it won one seat each in Tamil Nadu and Telangana. The saffron party couldn’t even open its account in Kerala.

Over the period of time, the BJP has faced strong resistance from the South. Even in subsequent Assembly Elections, BJP faced a humiliating defeat. The South poses a major challenge to the BJP, as regionalism dominates the in these states as opposed to the nationalism of BJP. BJP has always been looked at as a party of Northerners. Apart from few handpicked leaders like Venkaiah Naidu and Nirmala Sitharaman, BJP has no big leaders from South.

On the other hand, BJP has always been perceived as a party of upper castes. The Hindi imposition on the southern states has also not gone well with the people. Recently, during Karnataka elections, these issues were upheld by the former CM Siddharamaiah as the battle cry against BJP. So much so that he even called the BJP party leaders “northern imports”. He had even stoked controversy claiming that under Modi regime South Indian states are being neglected even when they contribute most to the overall taxes. Earlier this year, protestors flooded the Tamil Nadu streets with “Modi go Back” slogans when PM Modi was in the state for the inauguration of Defence Expo at Thiruvidanthai. Recently, Amit Shah faced the similar protests in Tamil Nadu. Last year, the saffron party faced such resistance in Kerala as well.

northern India
States ruled by BJP

Over the years, it was the NDA partners that held BJP’s hands in the southern states. However, these same allies have turned their back to the BJP, including TDP. The Andhra Pradesh political scenario is nothing different. TDP-the former BJP ally withdrew from the NDA and government as well alleging Modi Govt’s negligent attitude towards the state’s demand of according Special Status.

Thus, the BJP is faced with contradictory scenarios in Northern India and South India. While BJP has been successful in expanding its base throughout the northern region, it has faced a greater amount of difficulty to do so in the south region. As 2019 nears, Modi would want to strengthen the states where the party enjoys maximum support.

Strategically, focusing on the northern states where BJP enjoys dominance can get the party maximum result that Southern states where the saffron party faces an immense challenge.

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