The Bharatiya Janata Party has put up a stellar performance in the GHMC elections.
From only 4 seats in 2016, its tally jumped to 48 in 2020, with the party emerging as runner-up and denying K Chandrasekhar Rao’s Telangana Rashtriya Saminit, a simple majority in the Hyderabad municipality.
The TRS would now need the support of AIMIM to get its mayor elected.
After a good performance in the Lok Sabha elections in the state in 2019, this GHMC result has propelled the BJP to the main opposition party position in Telangana. The 2023 state Assembly elections are likely to be a direct contest between the BJP and the TRS.
The BJP, which is considered as a party of North India, is slowly and steadily spreading its influence in the southern part of India.
The BJP is already in power in Karnataka. It has in the past two decades consolidated its position in the state. The party swept the state in the 2019 general elections.
It has now taken over from Congress party as the main challenger to the TRS in Telangana. It won 5 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
In Tamil Nadu, its ally the AIADMK is in power in the state, although the BJP on a standalone basis has limited presence.
In Kerala, though it has doubled its vote share since 1999, it still doesn’t pose a major threat to either the CPM or the Congress. It failed to open its account in the Lok Sabha polls. 2026 could be an election where it emerges as a key player.
In Andhra Pradesh, its ex-ally the Telugu Desam Party, was in power in the state, but the alliance fell apart. It has tied up with the Jana Sena, but will take time to emerge as the main challenger to Jagan Reddy’s YSRCP.
What is driving the BJP’s growth in South India?
The BJP’s surge is fuelled by many factors.
The first is the general apathy of the public towards dynastic politics in India. According to India Today-Mood of the Nation survey 65 percent of the respondents stated that dynasty politics is over in India.
In all states, except Kerala,- regional parties have always had a strong presence – JD(S) (Karnataka), TDP and YSRCP (Andhra), TRS (Telangana), AIADMK and DMK (Tamil Nadu). Except for the AI,ADMK, all these parties are essentially family fiefdoms – Gowdas, Naidus, Reddys, and Raos.
Some of these parties have already transferred power to their second generation like JDS and YSRCP, while others like TRS and TDP are in the process of doing so.
These parties are going through the same narrative-fading party patriarch replaced by second generation leaders who have failed to make an electoral mark like in the North of India.
The second factor is disintegration of the Congress in these states. The Congress which ruled united Andhra for 10 years under the leadership of YSR couldn’t even open its account in the state elections in 2019.
It is increasingly being reduced to a non-entity in Telangana as evidenced by GHMC results. In Tamil Nadu, it is dependent upon the DMK with no standalone presence.
The vacuum left by the Congress in these states is being occupied by the BJP. The Congress versus regional party contests have been replaced by BJP versus regional party contests.
The third factor is Hindu awakening in some of these states. The minority appeasement politics practiced by TRS has given an opening to the BJP to galvanise the Hindu voters.
However, in Kerala, this strategy is yet to bear fruits.
The fourth factor is deft alliances formed to expand social base. An alliance with JDS in Karnataka, TDP in Andhra, AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, BJDS in Kerala has helped BJP to piggyback on the vote base of these parties and extend its influence among groups and regions where it had limited presence.
The fifth factor is BJP’s inroads into the OBCs. The BJP has consolidated the non-Yadav OBC votes throughout the country with Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister who hails from the community.
Many of its chief ministers like Shivraj Chouhan, Nitish Kumar (ally) and top leaders belong to OBC community. Other parties have failed to capture this vote block as it is fairly complex with hundreds of sub castes in each state and was never considered as a voting bloc.
To sum up, the BJP’s strategy of making a foray in the southern states of India, one by one, is bearing fruit, albeit slowly. This helps to act as a cushion in general elections and also diversify its risks.
The article was first published here.