Barring Karnataka, the rest of South India remained immune to the Modi- Shah Juggernaut as the BJP is finding it difficult to even open its account in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, and was struggling in Tamil Nadu and Telangana for a handful of seats.
Out of the total 130 seats on offer in South Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Puducherry, the BJP has done very well, improving upon its 2014 tally of 17 seat and was poised to win two seats in Tamil Nadu and two seats in Telangana. In all the six southern states put together, the BJP could barely win 30 seats and that too powered by its good showing in Karnataka.
This only goes to show that the south of Vindhyas still remains a tough nut to crack. It was widely believed that BJP could win a couple of seats owing to the Sabarimala controversy that raged in the state for a few months.
In Tamil Nadu, as leads stood at the time of writing this report, the DMK-Congress alliance in the state was poised to sweep the state. Among those trailing big was AIADMK leader and Lok Sabha deputy speaker M Thambidurai from Karur, where Jothimani of Congress had established an invincible lead over nearly one lakh votes. Among those losing is Union Minister of State Pon Radhakrishnan from Kanyakumari seat. Kanimozhi, A Raja, former Telecom Minister, TR Baalu and Dayanidhi Maran are among the DMK leaders and former union finance minister P Chidambaram’s son karti Chidambaram were leading against their AIADMK/BJP candidates.
The one seat that the BJP was sure of in Tamil Nadu, Coimbatore, too had DMK ally CPM leading.
If Tamil Nadu was proving to be a very difficult area to penetrate for the BJP even with an alliance with Dravidian major, neighbouring Andhra Pradesh was completely a no go area with YSRCP poised to sweep the state in assembly as also win all the 25 Lok Sabha seats.
Prof Harati Vageesan of NALSAR, Hyderabad said the reasons why the BJP is finding it difficult to score in southern states, barring Karnataka, was because the kind of emotive issues it focuses on do not find a resonance in south India – like Ram mandir, cow, Balakot. And even today, the perception among south Indian states is that it was a north Indian party and the BJP has also not done enough to dispel this impression.
Then the BJP finds it tougher to deal with strong regional leaders than a weaker Congress. In south India, the BJP finds tough regional leaders like Chandrababu Naidu, YSR Jaganmohan Reddy and Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu and in Kerala the Left and Congress led coalitions are both strong and square off between themselves.
Prof Ramu Manivannan of the Madras University felt that the brand of Hindutva politics does not gel with the people in south, where the issues are entirely different. For example, he said, if NEET, Cauvery and Sterlite were issues that Tamil Nadu was grappling with, in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, the absence of a special package for the state was the main issue in the elections.
In Karnataka, where the BJP had broken ground a few years ago, the Modi magic worked. More than this, the constant bickering between the two coalition partners and the resultant down the line impact and the lack of chemistry on the ground put paid to the Congress-JD(S) campaign. Clearly, the chemistry between the two coalition partners was missing on the ground, said Political analyst Prof Sandeep Shastri.