– Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi
Suddenly it seems that South India has become more of an impregnable fort for the BJP after its gateway to Dakshin Bharat got narrower following its huge loss in Karnataka assembly elections.
On the eve of Lok Sabha general elections, so to speak, – a few months before they are to be held – the BJP appears nowhere in the 130 seats that the five states and one union territory in the south offer.
If in Karnataka, the BJP yielded ground to Congress that snatched a credible and huge victory in the May 2023 assembly elections making it near impossible for the BJP to match its showing of 2019 general elections, in Telangana Congress revival has come bad news as it is relegating the BJP into the third slot. Now in Telangana, it is Congress that is being seen as the principal challenger to BRS and Chief Minister K Chandrashekhara Rao.
In Karnataka, the BJP had won 25 out of the 28 seats of Lok Sabha in 2019, its best showing so far in its gateway to South India, but recent opinion poll surveys are showing that the BJP could fall to below single digits in the state this time around.
In BJP’s second-best state of Telangana, as per 2019 Lok Sabha results, it was seemingly in the race for assembly elections and by extension in Lok Sabha where it fights to retain the four seats it won last time. But as the state gallops to the assembly elections due before December, the BJP finds itself relegated into the third place. Now, after Congress appeared revived strongly what with BJP and BRS leaders joining the party in droves, political analysts see a tougher time for the BJP in both assembly and Lok Sabha elections here.
Telangana sends 17 Lok Sabha members out of which the TRS (now BRS) has the lion’s share followed by the BJP. Suddenly, following the Karnataka victory, and before that a rejuvenating Bharat Jodo Yatra got Congress cadres rejuvenated and working hard on the ground.
The buzz around Congress is that it is just about peaking, and about the right time for the party that was instrumental in carving Telangana state out of Andhra Pradesh. Not a day passes these days without some or the other locally influential leader – from either the ruling BRS or the BJP – crossing over to Congress, in a clear indication of which way they find the wind blowing.
Of course, this does not mean Congress is winning, but it surely appears giving a tough fight to both the forces in the state. The upshot is that the BJP is getting relegated out of the reckoning. And the less said about the BJP in Andhra Pradesh the better, a state that sends 25 Lok Sabha members. The BJP has not been able to win a single seat in the state in the best of times. And now it appears to be even tougher.
Andhra Pradesh continues to be a two-horse race between the ruling YSRCP and the opposition Telugu Desam party, with a film star turned politician Pawan Kalyan trying to pose a challenge after tying up with the BJP. He has been trying to tie up with TDP and Chandrababu Naidu and form a coalition of forces with the BJP to take on CM YS Jaganmohan Reddy and his party, YSRCP. But, the BJP has frustrated all his efforts, and now Chandrababu Naidu finds himself in jail and his party in tatters as the second line of leadership appears confused. Even Naidu’s son faces the threat of arrest in a corruption case. What Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena party and its coalition with the BJP can do is to cut into votes of YSRCP, but not enough to win Lok Sabha seats. Even in assembly elections, his strength may not be enough to make any significant difference to the outcome, political analysts say.
In Tamil Nadu, one still wonders why the BJP pushed the AIADMK out of its alliance through the antics of its state unit Chief K Annamalai, who was not reigned in by the central party leadership despite several complaints from the AIADMK’s top leaders. The breaking of this alliance makes it tougher for the BJP to open its account in Tamil Nadu, though it can hope to get the support of AIADMK if it wins any seats in Lok Sabha at the time of government formation. But the breaking of this BJP and AIADMK alliance could hurt the chances of even AIADMK, as the BJP and its coalition partners forming a third force in Tamil Nadu politics would only benefit the DMK-Cong combine, especially during the Lok Sabha elections as a three-way split in the vote favours the ruling DMK in the short run.