KEY to the BJP’s ambition of nationwide dominance is its plan to expand its base in southern India on the back of the RSS and the appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. To that effect, BJP chief Amit Shah has given a “South Mission” blueprint to party leaders that aims to tap into the fluid political situation and prospective re-alignments in five states: Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, party sources have told The Indian Express.
“In these states, a strong RSS network has been built over the years and this will form the natural platform for the plan to take off,” said a senior BJP leader. The party’s “South Mission” faces its first test in Karnataka which goes to polls later this year. Critical to South Mission is also the import of established leaders from other parties, bringing in some of the party’s own leaders from other states, induct popular film stars and even break local parties.
“The situation is fluid in Tamil Nadu. Although the internal crisis in AIADMK has left the party in a disarray, the DMK is not in a position to take advantage of it. Because, unlike in the past, when people in the state tolerated corruption under J Jayalalithaa or M Karunanidhi, today’s population is in no mood to see the corrupt in power. They want to get rid of them. M K Stalin is not even making an attempt to stand against corruption,” said P Muralidhar Rao, BJP General Secretary in charge of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
The BJP’s reasoning is that as the Congress is unlikely to emerge strong anytime soon, the BJP could become the alternative, by default, if not by design. But that’s easier said than done. For the time being, though, the party leadership doesn’t want to rock any boat ahead of the Presidential elections in which the NDA requires support of an undivided AIADMK.
BJP leaders believe that roping in a popular film star into the party structure in the state — where cine artists have made it big in electoral politics — will help script its success. The BJP’s plan to get Rajnikanth hasn’t quite been a success. The superstar’s meeting with BJP candidate in R K Nagar bypolls Gangai Amaran refreshed such speculation — but sources said the party had other popular stars like Vishal and Vijay also in mind. “A popular star at the leadership position can change the situation dramatically. Getting one of them at the helm of affairs is one of our plans,” said a party leader familiar with the state unit.
In neighbouring Kerala, the BJP’s calculation is that the fall of the Congress at the national level will hasten its decline in the state. And the fight within the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF will also help. “The minority or the demography no longer remain a challenge to the BJP in its electoral performance,” added Rao.
The weakening of the Congress and the divide within the Left could trigger “major political changes and realignment,” in the state, a leader said adding: “(In Kerala) there will be an anti-Communist alignment and the BJP will be a major player in it,” a leader said.
Getting a superstar is part of BJP’s Kerala strategy as well. While Suresh Gopi is already a Rajya Sabha member from the state, Mohanlal is another actor the party would like to get on board.
In Telangana, party leaders say, it isn’t easy for the Congress to take the anti-TRS space as “both the ruling TRS and the Congress follow the same policies.” Congress has already been weakened after many of its leaders, including sitting MLAs, joined the TRS.
“The Opposition space will be occupied by the BJP in Telangana,” said one BJP leader. The BJP has already launched an agitation against the Telangana government’s decision to increase quota for backward Muslims.
In Andhra Pradesh, where the BJP is in alliance with the ruling TDP, BJP sees space for serious bargaining. The prominent Opposition party YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy is facing fresh trouble in his disproportionate assets case and the BJP feels his political career will be on the backburner until he is absolved of these charges.
Interestingly, Jagan Mohan Reddy who met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his official residence yesterday, said the YSR Congress will offer support to any candidate the BJP fields for the upcoming Presidential election. “We have very less difference in opinion. Except for differences on the land acquisition bill and special status for Andhra Pradesh, we share similar opinions on various issues which we think are pro-people,” Jagan told reporters after the meeting.
In Andhra Pradesh, the BJP also wants to woo former Congress leaders who did not join the YSR Congress. In poll-bound Karnataka, the BJP is banking on anti-incumbency undermining the JD-Secular and the Congress.