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2018 - BJP Continues in the Wilderness in Southern States

2018 was another year of BJP's failed dreams of making a breakthrough in five South Indian states. Will it retain even its 21 MPs is now the question.
BJP in South India

Despite BJP’s numerous attempts to make inroads in South India, the saffron party continued to fail, and is appearing to be more desperate only to forge alliances with regional parties, at least to garner a few Lok Sabha seats in the upcoming 2019 general elections. But to even retain the 21 MP seats out of total 129 from five South Indian states (it had won in 2014 elections) remains to be a significant challenge for the BJP, considering its track record in 2018, or in the last four and a half-year-regime.

Angst against the BJP has further increased in 2018, as the central government failed to tackle joblessness [unemployment has steadily risen from over five per cent in January 2018 to a chilling 7.3 per cent on December 28, according to latest Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) figures], farm distress, health and environment crisis among others. Alongside, the BJP/RSS communal agenda, divisive politics has further isolated the party in Southern states.

In the recently concluded Telangana elections, the BJP contested from 118 out of total 119 assembly segments, but could win in only one seat, and registered seven per cent vote share in the state. It had won five seats in the assembly and one seat in Lok Sabha in 2014 elections. While these figures indicate the miserable condition of the party, political analysts say that the saffron party has been eying for friendship with the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi, considering the necessary arithmetic for the upcoming 2019 general elections.

In Andhra Pradesh, After the TDP came out of BJP’s National Democratic Alliance earlier this year, over the special category status row, the BJP has been portrayed as an enemy by the state government across the state, and the situation is such that no other regional party, either the main opposition YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress or actor Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena would join the saffron hands, ahead of 2019 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. While the BJP won in two Lok Sabha segments and four MLA seats here, with the support of the TDP, considering BJP’s damage in the state, retaining the earlier seats itself would not be an easy task.

It was Karnataka where the BJP had held government in the past. While the party emerged to be the single largest party in the 2018 assembly elections, a post-poll alliance between JD(S) and Congress helped them form government comfortably. The BJP/RSS had played their traditional communal politics months before the assembly elections (remember the death of Paresh Mesta and the consequent communal tensions in Uttara Kannada District).

BJP won from 17 MP seats from Karnataka in 2014 elections, but with JD(S) and Congress alliance, with a combined vote share of about 56 per cent (Congress 38 per cent and JD(S) 18.4 per cent in 2018), the BJP can sense an impending setback in its only stronghold Southern state.

Opposing the Supreme Court ruling on the entry of women to Sabarimala shrine, the BJP has been holding protests, and the party has been attempting to polarise the CPI(M)-ruled Kerala. Although, RSS has been consistently expanding its shakhas there, but for BJP, even taking the role of an opposition party in Kerala remains to be a distant dream.

In Tamil Nadu, BJP and the ruling AIADMK are more likely to fight together in 2019 elections. However, as M K Stalin’s DMK is set to make a pact with Congress and Left parties, and considering the consistent ante for the BJP among Tamilians in general, the BJP is struggling to even build base there.

As per a survey conducted by CSDS Lokniti in May this year, 63 per cent of those surveyed are “dissatisfied” with Narendra Modi regime. As the BJP continued failing in South India, the common perception that the BJP is predominantly a North Indian party has further strengthened.

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