Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Guntur in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday is part of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) southern campaign where it faces a tall order to increase its footprints in four out of five states.
In Andhra Pradesh, where the BJP fought the 2014 elections in alliance with the TDP, it won two of the four seats it contested, while the TDP won 15. The TDP has since pulled out of the NDA government last March over the Centre’s ‘refusal to grant special category status’ to the state.
And with TDP supremo and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu playing the victim card, the BJP could find the going tough in the state.
The BJP will be focussing on development as it tries to woo Telugu voters. On Sunday, Modi will unveil several projects at Yetukar Bypass in Guntur. Among them is the 1.33 MMT Visakhapatnam Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) facility of Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve Limited (ISPRL) which he will dedicate to the nation.
The BJP may find it even tougher in the other Telugu-speaking state, Telangana, where it won only one of the 17 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. In the assembly elections in December 2018, the BJP’s number came down to just one from the five seats it won in the previous election.
Modi will head to Tamil Nadu from Guntur, his second visit to the state since January 27, when he laid the foundation stone for the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Madurai amid black flag protests.
The BJP may have a better chance in Tamil Nadu where it is likely to ally with the AIADMK which has weakened since it split after Jayalalithaa’s death. The BJP had won only one of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state in 2014. Modi will head for Tiruppur from Guntur and unveil several development projects including a hospital.
Last week, without naming the BJP, Tamil Nadu deputy chief minister and AlADMK coordinator O Panneerselvam said party leaders are in talks with a friendly national party for an alliance for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Ramu Manivannan, Professor and Head, Department of Politics and Public Administration, of the University of Madras, said that since the DMK formed a rainbow alliance with the Congress, Left parties, MDMK and VCK, the ruling AIADMK and BJP have no option but to form an alliance together.
“Some AIADMK leaders criticising BJP publicly is merely a negotiating tactic ahead of the seat-sharing talks. When we look into OPS’s statement, it is clear that things have consolidated and the alliance will be announced soon. Though there are some voices of dissent coming from the AIADMK on the likely tie-up, they have no other option other than joining hands with the BJP,” said Manivannan.
The BJP’s quest to increase its footprints in the south may be the hardest in Kerala where it failed to win any of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in the state in 2014.
During his two visits to Kerala last month, Modi had been highly critical of the Left Front government over its handling of protests against the Supreme Court order allowing women entry into the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala.
The BJP has been openly supporting the devotees who are opposed to women’s entry into the temple but in the recent local body bypolls in the state, it failed to make a mark. Out of the 39 seats in which elections were held, the BJP won only two. A sustained pro-Hindutva campaign hasn’t worked for the party in Kerala so far.
Modi will also visit Karnataka, the only southern state the BJP has ever ruled, in the last leg of his one-day tour. He will unveil several projects at Gabbur in Hubli. The results of the by-elections in Karnataka last November in which it won only one seat out of five was a warning sign for the party which wants to win 20 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats.
The party lost the Ballari Lok Sabha seat by a margin of over two lakh seats, underlining the fear that the Congress-JD(S) combine can torpedo its electoral ambitions.
First Published: Feb 10, 2019 06:47 IST
Narendra Modi on three-state southern blitz today to shore up BJP’s prospects in Lok Sabha elections – Hindustan Times