When AAP asked “Kejriwal vs Who ??” as part of their strategy in the run up to the Delhi elections, it may have dragged BJP in to a quicksand and exposed a very vital chink in BJP’s armour. AAP knew that BJP wanted to win the Delhi election too on the “Modi magic” plank and that none of BJP’s Delhi leaders could match Kejriwal if pitted directly against him. It was in fact the BJP which made the national election look like a Presidential election by projecting it as “Modi Vs Rahul Gandhi” election. But the earth is round and the same strategy came back to haunt them when Arvind Kejriwal played the trick back on them.
Now coming to the backdrop of this article, ever since its national victory, BJP has been trying hard to find an opening in the south Indian states.
- It has some presence in Karnataka and Telangana though both these states routinely see triangular contests.
- In Karnataka it is pitted directly against the ruling congress with JD(S) being the other fringe player with strength in some pockets.
- In Telangana, while TRS, Congress and TDP are the main players, BJP traditionally had some base.
- In Tamil Nadu, Kerala and in Andhra Pradesh, it has no strength of its own and the recent optimism is only linked to its assessment that it can piggyback on Modi’s personal popularity.
Now the core of BJP strategy to improve its presence in south India can be described like this.
- In Karnataka, it will go by the same national strategy of discrediting the congress and the Gandhi family. Coupled with the Modi appeal, it may not be very difficult to become the No 1 party.
- In Tamil Nadu and Kerala, it will bring in some charismatic leaders from out side to prop the party up. Probably a Rajnikanth, a Mohan Lal, probably some other smaller party’s leaders with good personal reputation etc.
- In AP, BJP thinks that the opposition headed by Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP will weaken over time to give it a real opening. It probably wants to attract some Congress leaders ( Congress has now been decimated there and may find it impossible to make a come back), film stars like Pawan Kalyan etc. It may also slowly distance itself from the ruling TDP, when it finds the timing ripe.
- In Telangana, it is banking on a weakened Congress and on the anti – incumbency on TRS.
The strategy looked good on paper, till the Delhi election results punctured a big hole into it.
- The “Modi magic” which is the rock bed of this strategy has not worked even in Delhi where the BJP has decades of strong presence. Can it work in South India where it had no presence what so ever for so long ?
- To start with BJP is perceived by south Indians as HINDI – HINDU party. Not long ago, its famous slogan used to be Hindi – Hindu – Hindustan. It looked for a while that this “Hindi – Hindu” and the “south India” divide is breached by Modi Mania. But if Modi’s popularity goes down, the old positioning of BJP in the minds of south Indians may resurface.
- After Kiran Bedi’s miserable performance in Delhi, will Mohan Lal / Rajnikanth / Pawan Kalyan agree to be another Kiran Bedi ?
- Even if they do, can they really fight wily career politicians who know the tricks of the trade ?
- BJP does not have leaders in its ranks in any of the south Indian states who can with stand question such as “Jayalalitha vs who ?”, “Stalin vs who ?”, “Chandrababu Naidu vs who ?”, “KCR vs who ?” etc. And Delhi has taught them that they can not go into a state election any time in future without finding a convincing answer to such important questions.
To sum it up, BJP’s dream of becoming a force the south of Vindhyas is not going to be easy to realize. Amit Shah will need to scratch his head far more vigorously to see the lotus bloom in south India.