Has south India abandoned Modi?

The BJP could hardly penetrate into south India. Thus, it is more than obvious that the BJP’s victory chariot will hit a roadblock in South.

Two years ago in December, the southern state of Tamil Nadu saw a sudden shift in sate’s politics with the death of much-revered leader “Amma” Jayalalitha. The very next day, a picture from her funeral went viral. An inconsolable O Penneerselvam (Jayalalitha’s Successor) hugs PM Modi while Sasikala (Jayalalitha’s Close aid) solemnly. The picture spoke what one could have imagined about the state’s political future. PM Modi was looked at as a ray of hope considering the leadership vacuum created in the state.

South India
Image Source: Web

Two years on, the feeling has faded. Modi is no longer a ray of hope or a leader who can fill the political vacuum in the state. Instead, the table seems to have turned. The new entrant Kamal Haasan has openly indicated has alienation from BJP stating that ‘his colour is not saffron’, while Rajinikanth still seems to be in a fix.

The situation is not much different in the neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Kerala. The ‘Janakrosh Rally’ planned by BJP in Kerala was met with sad fate. So much so that “Go Back Shah” made it to a top Twitter trend. Though the party deployed all of their stars, from Yogi Adityanath to Amit Shah and pushed their resources; it couldn’t even make a dent in the state’s politics. Even the Hindutva card played by BJP does not seem to work in the southern-most state.

South India
Amit Shah at a Jan Akrosh Rally in Kerala

Just after bifurcation, when the state of Andhra Pradesh was strangling to get the required aide, PM Modi made a series of promises from special category status to centre’s financial aid for the construction of capital Amravati. Now estranged TDP held the BJP’s hand and the party rose to power in the state. So much so that political experts even speculated that Andhra Pradesh could be the only second southern state, after Karnataka to have a BJP government. Four years after the coalition, Chandrababu Naidu broke away from NDA stating the broken promises. Telangana, on the other hand, is trusting its regional parties.

Karnataka, so far, is the only state where BJP could gather considerable clout. It is also the first state in south India where BJP could form a government. The BJP could hardly penetrate into the rest of south India.

Thus, it is more than obvious that the BJP’s victory chariot will hit a roadblock in South.

Why couldn’t BJP set up a base in South India?

One would wonder why even after having stalwart leaders like Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar, BJP has been unable to render the result it did in rest of the country. One of the major reason behind this is a strong sense of regionalism in the south. Not only the southern states insist on their respective languages but also fiercely oppose the imposition of Hindi. And on both of the front, the BJP has gone exact opposite creating a valley of difference between the party’s ideology and southern India.

The lack of strong leadership in the states is also one of the reasons why BJP has lagged far behind in these states. States like Tamil Nadu where hero-worshipping and idol politics is deep-rooted, the BJP does not have a strong regional leader whom the party can back. Same is the case with other states except for Karnataka where it has strong regional leaders like BS Yeddyurappa, Sadanand Gowda, etc.

South India
Modi and BS Yeddyurappa at a rally in Karnataka

BJP’s North India formula does not work in the south. Though BJP has managed to win 21 of the state in India, the lotus blooming in the southern states with a landslide seems a difficult task. The caste dynamics combine with regional pride and linguistic pride makes it tough for BJP to penetrate the south. Bringing UP chief Yogi Adityanath to campaign in Kerala was the mistake BJP wished it should not have done.

At a time when the BJP is suffering a loss in by-polls in the northern states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and UP, the last thing it wished is the backlash from South India. There is no denying that the 2014 Modi wave will not be seen in 2019. The coalition parties too are slowly distancing themselves from the BJP. In such a case, has South India also abandoned BJP?

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