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South India is BJP's New 'Theatre of War' to Contain Congress in 2019

Political alignments and adjustments in 82 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu are being fine-tuned by both UPA and NDA to muster numbers.

Sumit Pande | News18.com

Updated:August 27, 2018, 10:58 AM IST
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South India is BJP's New 'Theatre of War' to Contain Congress in 2019
File photo of BJP chief Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (PTI)
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Preparing for the Lok Sabha elections, the 'theatre of war' for the BJP shifts to three electorally significant states down south where the Congress and its allies mopped up majority of seats to win two consecutive General Elections beginning 2004.

Political alignments and adjustments in 82 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu (1 in Puducherry) are being fine-tuned by both UPA and NDA to muster numbers.

Congress and its allies, with a strike rate close to 90%, won more than 70 seats on both occasions in these four states in 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha polls. This tally plummeted to a mere two in 2014 elections.

Of all these states, developments in Tamil Nadu are being watched very closely by both the BJP and the Congress. No one really knows how the state's polity would crystalise after the deaths of M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa. Every player is making precocious moves to test waters.

In an interaction with the media earlier this month, a top Congress leader was reasonably sure of the DMK contesting the next Lok Sabha elections under the UPA umbrella.

The very next week, the DMK extended an invite for Karunanidhi's memorial service to be held this month-end to BJP president Amit Shah.

Initial reports suggested that Shah would attend. It now appears the BJP will instead send a senior party leader to the ceremony. The Congress is likely to be represented by old TN hand Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Amit Shah, during his last trip to Tamil Nadu, had categorically said his party will have pre-poll alliance in the state. But with whom?

Choice of allies in Tamil Nadu in 2004 and 2009 sent the BJP on a decade-long exile out of the Delhi Durbar. This time around, the party is treading with extreme caution.

In Andhra Pradesh, with 25 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP is a minor player, as is the Congress party. The elections in the state would see a direct contest between the TDP and the YSRCP. Attempting to consolidate on Dalit and minority votes, Jagan Mohan Reddy cannot be seen to be having any truck with the BJP.

Having burnt its bridges with Naidu, in the larger national context, it suits the BJP if the TDP is contained in the state.

In adjoining Telangana, the Congress is the main opposition to the ruling TRS. K Chandrashekhar Rao's loss would be Congress' gain. And here again, it suits the BJP if TRS maintains its dominance over state politics.

By accepting support from the TRS and the BJD in recent Rajya Sahba deputy chairman elections, the BJP is no more a challenger to either KCR or Naveen Patnaik. It has conceded opposition space to the Congress. It’s a tactical move to contain the Congress where BJP feels it is not in a position to make substantive inroads and convert votes into seats.

In the last three years as it prepared for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had sought to consolidate its position in the east and along the 'Coromandal Coast' to make for any losses in areas it has peaked in the last elections.

Re-assessing the current political situation, in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha, the BJP seems to have made up its mind to survive and fight another day. Political situation in Tamil Nadu will unfold in the months ahead.

West Bengal, with 42 seats, is where the BJP will be pinning its hopes now to add to its tally.
| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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