For a long time, Bharatiya Janata Party was regarded as a party that had its dominance in the north, often referred to as the Cow Belt. That image held on for long as BJP was dominant in northern states since its inception in the 1980s. But a lot of things have changed since then, and the saffron surge below the Vindhyas is now visible.
After having stabilized its government in Karnataka, post the collapse of the JDS – Congress regime, the Yediyurappa Govt is now on even keel. Beyond that, it’s the question of what’s next. For BJP to grow beyond the tally which it has in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it will have to look at the Southern Space.
That leaves four states, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala for BJP to foray into.
While Andhra Pradesh is still a faraway target as the YS Jagan’s party has unchallenged domain in the state after having decimated its principal opponent, the Telugu Desam Party led by Chandrababu Naidu. BJP’s vote share in Andhra Pradesh is still in single digits and Sunil Deodhar and his team have a huge task cut out for them.
The Tamil Nadu politics with its Dravidian dominance has ensured that national parties like BJP and Congress held on coattails of AIADMK or DMK to register a nominal presence. The Dravidian parties often play up the anti-Hindi sentiments when they want to target BJP. But things are changing in Tamil Nadu with BJP adopting an aggressive stance by deciding to take out Vetri Vel Yatras, despite opposition from the state government. Aggression works and BJP Tamil Nadu has realized that, of late.
In Kerala, the BJP has made substantial gains in the State Assembly elections and Lok Sabha elections. In a state where the winning margin is in single digits, BJP’s ascendancy has upset the traditional way politics works in a fixed match between CPM led LDF and Congress led UDF. Both fronts don’t shy away from accommodating the most rabid communal parties, in return votes from their vote banks. At the same time, these two fronts don’t shy away from attacking RSS and BJP, accusing them of communal politics. The scams of the recent past has badly hurt CPM and its party leadership and the party is now desperately seeking political survival.
That brings us to Telangana. It’s a state that has seen the dominance of Congress since independence, and then the emergence of Telugu Desam Party, which came into existence when N T Rama Rao evoked the Telugu Atma Gauravam (self-respect of the Telugus). NTR ruled for a while, but was deposed by his son in law, Chandrababu Naidu, in a palace coup. Naidu was eventually dethroned by a determined Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, who ruled with iron fist, crushing the Telangana agitation. It was Rajasekhara Reddy’s death in a helicopter crash that turned the favour for K Chandrasekhara Rao, who hijacked the Telangana agitation and his party Telangana Rashtra Samithi won a landslide election.
The honeymoon with people of Telangana lasted for the first term of TRS, and the problems started in the second term. KCR who never came to the State Secretariat, decided to pull it down and build a new one for Rs 600 crores, at a time when the state is almost bankrupt. His grandiose irrigation schemes though looks good on paper, have only lent credence that it was contractors who made millions and in turn that money was routed back to the Kalvakuntla family. The TRS was surprised in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, when BJP won 4 seats, and this strengthened the Saffron party to go for the kill. That moment of reckoning came in the Dubbaka Assembly elections held last month, when BJP’s Raghunandan Rao scored an upset victory. This rural constituency includes the village where KCR was born and that hurt the party, all the more.
Having realized that BJP was going to come with all guns blazing in the elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, KCR and his son KTR played the old trick which they tried in 2018 – and preponed the GHMC elections. A pliable State Election Commissioner obliged and the candidates were given just three days to file their nominations and six days to campaign. But, BJP quickly marshaled its famous election juggernaut and rolled it out. From Yogi Adityanath to Amit Shah, the party threw in every ammunition it had. The result – TRS, which had won 99 seats last time came a cropper getting just 56 seats. BJP on the other hand saw its fortunes rise dramatically from just 4 seats in 2016, to 48 seats this time. The MIM held on to their traditional vote bank.
The GHMC results have now galvanized the party cadres and its leaders, to now go after the KCR family and target TRS party in the 2023 State Assembly Elections. It will not be surprising if during the next few days, we get to see income tax and enforcement directorate raids against major media houses and real estate companies who have close links with the ruling dispensation. That, according to political leaders is likely to lead to a fresh exodus of leaders from Congress party and make it a two party affair in Telangana.
The GHMC results will also be a case study for party leaders in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala on how the David can take on the Goliath and still emerge victorious. The aggression in the state party units down south will now sport a new look and there might be a new zest in the party cadres, who believe that they can do it. Will that happen on not is a question. But one thing is for sure. Amit Shah will use the GHMC experiment in the elections to the four states that are due next year. Don’t be surprised if BJP documents the way GHMC elections were fought as a Case Study for other state units to follow. Watch this space.