South India will continue to be apathetic about national parties (Opinion). If the results of numerous elections over the last few decades, up to and including the recent Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, indicate anything. The political battlefield south of the Vindhyas remains a minefield for major national parties, namely the BJP and Congress.
South India’s five states are governed by regional parties, one by a Left-coalition. And one by Karnataka is managed by a precarious BJP administration.
While Congress’s popularity continues to dwindle throughout the nation. Its position has been especially vulnerable in the south. Which has long been considered its stronghold. The gradual descent into insignificance started in Tamil Nadu when the party succumbed to an anti-Hindi attitude that has persisted to the present day.
Following that, in the 1980s, fueled by actor-turned-politician NT Rama Rao’s Telugu Pride. The then-state of Andhra Pradesh kicked the Congress out. Following its split, the party paved room for regional parties in Andhra Pradesh and the newly formed state of Telangana. For the first time in a long time, the Congress won in Tamil Nadu but lost in Kerala for the second time in a row.
The situation is similar for the BJP, which controls the Centre and a slew of states in the country’s north, west, and east. With a minimal presence for decades, the south continues to be a difficult nut for the BJP to crack. Although the saffron party had some success in Karnataka, it has now lost steam and is navigating a leaky ship through the stormy seas of an unconvincing Assembly majority.
In contrast to eastern states like Tripura and Assam, the BJP has performed poorly in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. While the BJP came up empty in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections in 2019. Their performance in neighboring Telangana has been everything but stable. The BJP, buoyed by victories in the Dubbaka Assembly election and the Hyderabad municipal elections. Is ready to take on the governing TRS directly in the next Assembly election. While Telangana is the most promising state in the south, the BJP’s defeats in the Bengal elections should give it pause for thinking.
Despite the party’s lofty hopes, it ended up losing even the one Assembly seat it had gained in the previous Kerala election. To its credit, the BJP gained four seats. Marking its return to the newly formed Tamil Nadu Assembly after a two-decade absence. However, with a distinctively Dravidian party at the leadership, the BJP can anticipate little success in the near future.
Therefore, what are the true causes for the national parties’ failure to gain momentum in the South?
To begin, the southern states have a long history of producing homegrown leaders. From Karunanidhi to MGR, Jayalalithaa, NTR, KCR, and Jagan Mohan Reddy, each has worked diligently to build their vote-banks. All of them are nearby rather than in far-flung Delhi. Indeed, the BJP’s victory in Karnataka would not have been feasible without the support of another indigenous leader, Chief Minister B.S. Yediurappa.
In Congress, a culture of familial subservience has virtually eliminated local leadership. For the BJP, the issue is one of insufficient mass support. Regrettably for the BJP, the process of developing local leadership is long and laborious and cannot be replace by wholesale importation from other parties. It must prepare for the long term rather than the near future.
The second issue impeding the BJP’s growth ambitions in the south is demography.
In comparison to the other three sections, the communal makeup of the south is less apparent. As a result, polarization along religious or cultural lines is difficult. The Congress seems to have struck a brick wall since it is reportedly unpopular with the majority of the electorate’s youth. According to social scientists, increasing urbanization and education levels have also had a significant impact on the party’s hustings prospects.
Above all, it is the existence of a strong indigenous feeling in each of these states. Fearful of being carry away by a north Indian tsunami. This is exactly why regional parties flourish and represent a threat to national political parties. A pattern that is expect to continue for the next several election cycles at the very least.