South may remain beyond BJP’s reach

Hyderabad, May 21:  The collapse of three-day old BJP government in Karnataka amid high drama has proved that the saffron party may not find easy to get a foothold in the southern states.

Karnataka was the only state in south India which BJP ruled in the past. The BJP leaders were all hopeful that it will become 20th state in the country to come under their rule. However, it finally proved to be a case of so close yet so far.

By emerging as the single largest party with 104 seats in 224-member Assembly, BJP came close to achieve its goal of Congress-free India. However, despite the anti-incumbency factor, Congress did well to bag 78 seats but far short of 112 mark to form government.

Congress had lost states like Goa and Manipur to BJP despite emerging as single largest party. This time, the party pre-empted any such move by reaching out to Janta Dal (Secular) even before the results were out. Exit polls had projected Deve Gowda’s party as kingmaker but it became king with just 38 seats as Congress offered to extend it outside support. Deve Gowda’s son Kumaraswamy staked claim to form the government.

By playing its cards carefully this time, Congress sealed any chances of BJP taking reins of Karnataka, which had proved its gateway to south in 2008.    

The action of governor in inviting B. S. Yeddyurappa to form the government and giving him 15-days time to prove his majority came in for all-round criticism. Congress targeted BJP for its double-standards and took the matter to Supreme Court, which reduce the time from 15-days to just two-days.

With both Congress and JD(S) managing to keep their flock together, despite the scare created by reports of couple of MLAs being lured by BJP, Yeddyurappa had to bow out even before facing the floor test as directed by the Supreme Court.

The Karnataka outcome proved that unlike states in other regions, south India remains beyond reach for BJP. Political observers say the debacle has dealt a blow to its attempts to gain foothold in other southern states. It is one region where Amit Shah and Narendra Modi have not been able to show their magic.

The blow in Karnataka came close on the heels of BJP losing a key ally – Andhra Pradesh’s ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP). Chandrababu Naidu pulled out of BJP-led NDA at the Centre in March, accusing Modi of going back on the promise to accord special category status to the state. Since then, Naidu had been lashing out at BJP.

Naidu had started distancing himself from BJP when he observed that the saffron party is moving close to his bête noire Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress Party. The movement launched by almost all parties over special status has already put BJP in a tight spot.

BJP, which had won two Lok Sabha and four Assembly seats in alliance with TDP in 2014 elections, will face a tough time in the next year’s election as all opponents will be projecting it as a villain.

Interestingly, TDP had appealed to Telugu voters in Karnataka to vote against the BJP for betraying five crore people of Andhra Pradesh.

Telangana was once considered to have some urban pockets with support base for BJP. The Lotus party had done well in alliance with TDP in the undivided Andhra Pradesh. In fact, there were apprehensions in some quarters that formation of Telangana state be a political advantage to BJP. They believed that BJP might get a foothold in the state by cashing in on the perceived communal divide in some parts of the state.

However, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which stormed to power in the newly created state, yielded no ground to BJP during last four years. Though both Amit Shah and Modi addressed a couple of meetings in the state, they did not make any inroads. TRS leaders say that their excellent record in ensuring communal harmony and peace and the welfare schemes for all sections of the society provided no ground to BJP.

Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao recently termed as ‘big joke’ claims by BJP leaders that their party will come to power in the state in 2019. KCR’s plans to float a national front as an alternative to both Congress and BJP has put further pressure on BJP in the state. He had already been targeting BJP for not lending helping hand to India’s youngest state.

BJP’s loss in Karnataka also came amid calls by Naidu, Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan and others for forming a grouping of the southern states to protect their interests. The TDP chief alleged that BJP plans to politically weaken the southern states. The TDP leader referred to the alleged intervention of BJP in Tamil Nadu following  the death of AIADMK leader Jayalalitha.

Political observers say the emergence of new political parties in Karnataka will give no room for BJP. Kamal Haasan has already made it clear that his party will not join hands with BJP.

The presence of strong regional parties in south is what appears to have halted the march of Shah-Modi combine. BJP’s gains in other regions were mostly in those states where Congress was in power. Uttar Pradesh was a major exception where Samajwadi Party was ruling the state.

Analysts say Karnataka was the only state where BJP could have once again formed the government. They believe that BJP has no chances of emerging as major political force in any other southern state in the near future.

In the wake of the recent developments, the BJP may face a big challenge in even retaining its 19 Lok Sabha seats in the region in 2019 elections.

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