It is the custom of the country to perceive, and imagine, a shift in tempo, style and manners, along with a real linguistic shift, south of the Vindhyas. That ‘North-South divide’ came into partial play in this election, as a second Modi wave engulfed the country. As the NDA rode a landslide victory to retain power, it seems that two southern states, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, were immune to ‘Modi magic’, even as Karnataka and Telangana succumbed to it.
In Karnataka, till now the only southern state breached by the BJP, the party reaped a surprisingly rich harvest—a near sweep of 25, largely attributable to a sparring JD(S) and the Congress, the ruling coalition partners. The BJP’s persistence in trying to destabilise the government by wooing its MLAs has also worked in its favour.
That admirable quality of pegging away at a target—a project of expanding its footprints in the South—bore fruit in Telangana, where the party won four seats. It startled the ruling TRS, which confidently expected a sweep, but secured only nine seats. However, the other three states, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh, continue to spurn BJP’s Hindutva ideology.
Though the BJP’s dominant narrative on national security, bolstered by the Balakot attacks, has hugely contributed to its massive victory elsewhere, its rhetoric on ‘muscular nationalism’ has limited appeal in the south. Likewise, Pulwama and Balakot have barely figured in the BJP’s southern campaigns.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu continues to elude BJP, as DMK and allies have secured a landslide victory. A miserably fractious AIADMK post the death of Jayalalitha was always a sitting duck; in allying with it as a junior partner, the BJP was on a sticky wicket. However low-hanging the fruit was, it had to be plucked, and credit for the win goes to DMK president M.K. Stalin.
Kerala has bucked the national trend, giving a clear verdict in favour of the Congress-led UDF, which swept through 19 out of 20 seats. The BJP’s ploy of an incursion into Kerala on the wings of the contentious issue of
womens’ entry to Sabarimala temple, thus came a cropper. The BJP was eying two seats—Thiruvanathapuram and Pathanamthitta. Though the Congress made gains at the cost of the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF, the huge mandate was clearly aimed at stalling a second NDA term. The ‘Congress wave’ can, of course, be attributed to Rahul Gandhi’s winning candidature from Wayanad. The BJP, triumphant in Karnataka, would take heart from Telangana. But count on them to gird their loins and rejoin battle in Kerala and TN.
- 100% DMK strike rate in Tamil Nadu. Only party to win every seat contested.
- 4.31 lakh Rahul Gandhi’s margin of victory in Wayanad