All eyes on Tamil Nadu: Can Modi's BJP breach Periyarist bastion in 2024 Lok Sabha elections? - Hindustan Times

All eyes on Tamil Nadu: Can Modi's BJP breach Periyarist bastion in 2024 Lok Sabha elections?

Apr 18, 2024 07:21 PM IST

The upcoming general elections in Tamil Nadu have drawn attention to the BJP's attempts to challenge the dominance of Periyarist parties in the state.

As Tamil Nadu goes to vote for the 2024 general elections tomorrow, all eyes are focused on whether the BJP and its allies can dent the bastion of Periyarist parties and ride over their anti-Hindi and anti-Sanatan political narrative.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Arichal Munai point, which is the place from where Ram Setu starts, in Dhanushkodi. (ANI Photo)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Arichal Munai point, which is the place from where Ram Setu starts, in Dhanushkodi. (ANI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone on record stating that BJP’s performance in southern India will astonish everyone in 2024 elections as the electorate will vote for development done by the Centre as compared to the State governments. Fact is that despite the party getting four per cent vote in the 2019 elections, the BJP led by PM Modi has invested a lot into Tamil Nadu for 2024, just as they concentrated on West Bengal in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections with more than satisfactory results. PM Modi made more than 10 visits to Tamil Nadu in the run-up to polls after spending two days visiting key temples in the southern part of the state before the Pran Pratathista ceremony on the re-built Ram Lalla temple at Ayodhya on January 22. He invoked Tamil pride by installing the Chola dynasty’s Sengol in the new Parliament building and exposed the Congress-DMK nexus in the granting of Katchatheevu Island to Sri Lanka by Indira Gandhi in 1974 and surrendering the Indian fishing rights in 1976. Not only that, he used AI to translate his Hindi speech to Tamil in real time to reach larger audiences in the southern state.

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PM Modi’s electoral efforts were seconded by party state president K Annamalai, who is the BJP candidate from Coimbatore, and rally cum road shows by Home Minister Amit Shah in south Tamil Nadu.

Based on the past electoral record of the BJP, the Opposition has tried to drum up the north-south divide in the 2024 election results and has convinced even the BJP supporters that the party and its NDA allies may have frugal pickings in Tamil Nadu and the South. However, it is evident that the BJP will get better numbers in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh with the TDP and Pawan Kalyan’s Jan Sena Party alliance and Telangana in the 2024 results.

While many political soothsayers believe that the NDA will get less than five seats in Tamil Nadu given the institutionalized money power of DMK, the impact of PM Modi making Tamil Nadu, its people and ancient culture the focus on the country may yield unprecedented electoral results on national scale. After all, there is a possibility that the Tamil Nadu voters may vote for a national leader in Narendra Modi while sticking to regional parties in the state assembly elections.

BJP's state unit chief K Annamalai has predicted that his party will get seats in double digits in the state with a vote share at 35 per cent but this is a very optimistic scenario. Party insiders who have handled the Tamil Nadu campaign believe that the BJP-led NDA will win four to five seats with vote share between 15-18 per cent. The seats that NDA is positively looking towards are: Theni, Tirunelveli, Coimbatore, Vellore and Dharmapuri.

But the party insiders feel that BJP-led NDA can mount a strong challenge in other constituencies of Tamil Nadu if the Karyakartas are able to convince the voters to look beyond the money power of the ruling party in the state and vote for Modi 3.0. If this happens, the BJP-led NDA will contest for North and South Chennai, Mayiladuthurai, Thanjavur, Tenkasi, Kanyakumari, Tiruppur, Perambalur, Ramanathapuram, Krishnagiri, Sriperumbudur, Arakkonam and Nilgiris constituencies.

While BJP came out a cropper in Andhra Pradesh in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the scenario is looking much better after the party joined hands with Chandrababu Naidu of the TDP and Pawan Kalyan of Jan Sena as the combined vote share can cause an electoral upheaval in the name Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While the Y S Jagan-led YSRCP is facing anti-incumbency in the state, the electorate may look favourably towards the NDA and go for the development cum empowerment program and leadership of PM Modi. Party insiders feel that the NDA may notch a figure of over 15 seats in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections but the numbers will become much clearer when the campaign heats up next month before the May 13 polls. If the BJP under PM Modi is able to significantly increase its vote share from 6.24 per cent last time, then the NDA will be in the contest in a large number of seats as TDP notched up a significant vote share of 40.19 per cent even in the 2019 elections.

Similarly, the BJP is expected to increase its vote share and number of seats in Telangana in the forthcoming polls with the party doubling its vote share in the 2023 State Assembly elections and winning seven more Assembly seats, Even though the electorate votes for a national leader in the Lok Sabha elections, the 2023 state elections hold a promise for the BJP. Party insiders say that the BJP will not only increase the vote share in the 2024 elections substantially by banking on the nationwide appeal of PM Modi and expect the party to win at least seven seats.

While we will discuss BJP's chances in Karnataka and Kerala next week, the Opposition pollsters who are discounting the BJP in Southern States may get a rude surprise as the public remembers the solid leadership of PM Modi during the Covid times. When the armchair health experts were predicting death and chaos for India, PM Modi not only held the country together but also managed to get the 140 crore public vaccinated faster than anyone in the world. The evacuation of stranded Indians in Ukraine or Yemen, the G-20 summit, massive road infrastructure development and over seven per cent economic growth in Modi 2.0 may turn out to be an electoral game changer as the Indians want the country to grow under a strong leader and not stagnate in bitter politics and poor governance. While the BJP will not get the Muslim votes as in the past, the majority of Indians are looking at a strong leader in Modi to run the country and grow to the next level as a global power. Since the vote is on PM Modi, the results can be unprecedented even in the South.

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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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