June 16, 2024

Counter the BJP’s Growth in the South

THE overall results of the Lok Sabha election are certainly a setback for the BJP. Getting 240 seats, it failed to achieve the absolute majority it had gained in the 2014 and 2019 elections. Narendra Modi is now heading a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition government with parties like the Telugu Desam Party and the Janata Dal (United) providing the numbers for a majority in the Lok Sabha.

This is one of the favourable outcomes of the people’s electoral verdict and it happened because the BJP suffered a major loss in Uttar Pradesh and also losses in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana and West Bengal.

However, when evaluating the results, the gains made by the BJP should not be ignored. Apart from its unprecedented showing in Odisha, where it won 20 out of the 21 Lok Sabha seats and an absolute majority in the assembly for the first time, what should cause concern is the gradual advances of the BJP in the southern states.

In terms of seats, it may appear that the BJP has not made any advance – it had won 29 seats in the five southern states in 2019 and now in 2024 it could only maintain the same number. But a detailed analysis state-wise and the vote share it has gained in each state provides a different picture:

Telangana is a state where the BJP won 4 seats in the 2019 election, getting 19.45 per cent of the votes polled. In the 2024 election, it has doubled its tally to 8 and raised its vote share substantially to 35.19 per cent. The drastic fall in the BRS vote share has benefitted primarily the BJP.

In Karnataka, the BJP has lost ground. It had won 25 seats, polling 51.38 per cent in the 2019 election. Now it has got 17 seats and its vote share fell to 46.09 per cent.  However, by allying with the Janata Dal (S), which got 5.64 per cent of the vote, the NDA polled a combined 51.73 per cent. This alliance also helped in limiting the extent of loss of seats. 

In Kerala, the BJP won the Thrissur seat, the first time the party has won a Lok Sabha seat in the state. The party’s vote share went up from 12.9 per cent in 2019 to 16.67 per cent. The NDA has registered 19.2 per cent – the highest ever in Kerala. The warning signal sent out by this result must be taken with the utmost seriousness by the Left and democratic forces.

In Tamil Nadu, the BJP failed to win a single seat despite its tall claims during the election campaign. Unlike in 2019, when the BJP had an alliance with the AIADMK, this time the BJP fought separately with a few allies like the PMK and splinters from the AIADMK. The BJP’s vote share went up from 3.66 per cent in 2019, contesting 5 seats, to 11.24 per cent now, contesting 23 seats. It should also be noted that the BJP came second in 10 constituencies, which indicates that in some seats it was able to garner AIADMK votes.

In Andhra Pradesh, where the BJP has been very weak, it has benefitted from the alliance with the TDP. It has got 3 parliament seats, polling 11.29 per cent of the votes. In 2019, it had got only a meagre 0.96 per cent of the votes. In the 2024 assembly election, it polled a smaller percentage of 2.83 per cent of the votes, but got 8 seats. It is going to have ministers in the Chandrababu Naidu ministry. The BJP will be hoping to expand its strength, riding piggy-back on the TDP.

This brief overall sketch of the BJP’s position in the five southern states reveals that there is a slow, at times halting, advance of the BJP in the southern states, other than Karnataka, where it had established a strong base more than two decades ago. 

What this underlines is the necessity not to underestimate the BJP-RSS combine’s capacity to occupy new ground and to retrieve spaces they have lost. 

The composition of the new ministry under Modi shows that all key portfolios, in addition to home, defence, finance and external affairs, have been retained by the BJP. Both through the State machinery and its organisational resources, the BJP-RSS combine will work to expand and consolidate its influence. 

The Left, democratic and secular forces must evolve, at the all-India level and state-wise, the politics and methods to counter and check the Hindutva ideology and political activities. 

(June 12, 2024)



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