Karnataka in kitty, BJP rejoices in south IndiaMay 27th, 2008 - 3:24 pm ICT by admin
Hyderabad, May 27 (IANS) Now that it is set to form a government in south India for the first time, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is confident the victory in Karnataka will help it spread its base in the adjoining states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. BJP stalwarts in the three states where the party remains weak say the stunning election win Sunday in Karnataka was the best thing to have happened to them.
The rejoicing is at its height in Andhra Pradesh, where the BJP has decided to contest all 294 assembly and 42 Lok Sabha seats in the 2009 elections.
“The Karnataka development is certainly a morale booster. It will help us strengthen and expand the party,” an upbeat BJP Andhra Pradesh president Bandaru Dattatreya told IANS.
Dattatreya is hopeful that the immediate gain would come in the May 29 by-elections. The BJP is confident of wresting the Musheerabad assembly seat in Hyderabad from the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS).
Kerala BJP president P.K. Krishna Das is equally excited that a party dismissed for long as a ‘north Indian party’ is finally preparing to govern a southern state.
Das, 44, said this would certainly spur the party’s growth in Kerala, the BJP’s weakest link in the political chain in southern India and the only state in the region where it has not had even a state legislator.
“The biggest advantage is that currently half of the northern most district of Kasargode which borders with Mangalore in Karnataka speaks Kannada. It is from here that we are going to set the ball rolling,” he said.
Tamil Nadu BJP chief Ila Ganesan is also elated: “The very fact that a national party has formed a government in the south shows our sustained growth. When it heavily rains in a neighbouring state, some of its clouds also bring rain across the border.
“In the next parliamentary elections, for which our preparations are well underway, our showing in Tamil Nadu would be much better,” Ganesan told IANS.
In its earlier incarnation, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh was an unknown entity in south India, more so because its key slogan used to be “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan”. The slogan itself spiked its possible growth in the southern states.
And then, keeping pace with the BJP’s ballooning nationally from the late 1980s, the party began to make inroads in south India, with Karnataka proving to be the most fertile ground. Andhra Pradesh came next.
Ideologically, Tamil Nadu proved to be the toughest nut to crack. In Kerala, though the BJP could never win any assembly election, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Singh (RSS) drew many adherents, giving the BJP a vast support base.
In Andhra Pradesh, the BJP has only two members in the assembly and no MP from the state. It contested 27 assembly and eight Lok Sabha seats in 2004 with a tie up with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
The best year for the BJP in the state was 1999 when it won 12 of the 24 assembly seats it contested, polling 3.67 percent of votes. It also won seven Lok Sabha seats out of eight it contested and got 9.9 percent votes.
Its state president Dattatreya, 61, is a three term MP from Secunderabad in the state capital. He has also been a central minister of state from 1999 to 2004.
In Kerala, the BJP’s best showing in the contest for the 140-member assembly was when it came second in Kasargode and Manjeswaram constituencies in the last two elections.
According to Kerala BJP chief Das, in the 2006 assembly elections, the party had an 8.5 percent vote share, down from 12.5 percent in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls. In the early 1990s this was just 2.8-3.5 percent in the assembly elections. In 1987 this rose to 7.5 percent.
In its entire history in Tamil Nadu, the BJP has had only one legislator - and just for one term.
Ganesan says henceforth the BJP will “talk from a position of strength” when it goes for alliances in Tamil Nadu. “Rather than having more members in the assemblies, we want more MPs.”
BJP leaders warn privately that they need to check factionalism in their units. This affects the BJP most acutely in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. The leaders also admit that while the Karnataka victory may help it win more seats in south India, it will be a long, long time - if at all - before the BJP can even dream of taking power on its own in Kerala, Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh.
(T.S.V. Hari in Chennai, Sanu George in Thiruvananthapuram and Mohammed Shafeeq in Hyderabad contributed inputs for this story.)
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