BJP in South India: Mission Kerala and Tamil Nadu
BJP in South India : Having breached Karnataka fortress completely, it is only a matter of time that BJP in South India will be a reality. If you see History, Karnataka has always been the gateway of the South. Be it North Indian Kingdoms or Islamic Invaders, it was only after defeating Kannada Empires that they could go further towards Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Be it Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagara Empires, it was only after defeating them, that conquerors and invaders could breach rest of South.
Even the BJP considers Karnataka as it’s Gateway to South.
According to BJP sources, BJP is going to make Dakshina Kannada District which borders Kerala as a base for expansion into Kerala. However, it’s first target is expected to be Kasargod which has a good population of Kannadigas, Tulavas and Konkanis. All three communities have since 1970’s itself been strongly behind Sangh Pariwar in Kerala due to Dakshina Kannada influence which is unarguably, the strongest RSS fortress in all of India. And it was they who built the Sangh Pariwar in Kerala.
Especially Kannada dominated Manjeshwaram in Kasargod is easily within reach of BJP. With bypolls around the corner for this constituency, BJP can expect to make its second inroad into Kerala Assembly.
But the real problem for BJP is down south beyond the Kannada dominated areas in Kerala. Like Andhra where there is Kamma-Reddy political rivalry and Karnataka where there is Vokkaliga-Lingayat political rivalry, in Kerala, there is Ezhava-Nair political rivalry.
While the support of any one dominant community along with the support of Brahmins and OBCs has been the key for BJP in many states, in Kerala it has to use a different strategy.
Unlike other states,
- Kerala has 2 dominant Hindu communities, Ezhavas who are the biggest Hindu community (22% of Kerala Population) and Nairs the second biggest (14%). Brahmins, Dalits and Other OBCs are less in number and divided.
- Hindu Population is very low at 55%.
These 2 factors make it compulsory for BJP to woo both the dominant communities and also other politically not so dominant communities like Dalits, Thiyyas and Brahmins. Thereby, it needs at least 70–80% of Hindu votes in Kerala assuming the minority vote splits between Congress and CPM in order to become a dominant player in Kerala.
Ezhavas are a core vote bank of CPM and Nairs were a core vote bank of Congress. But with increasing minority appeasement, many Nairs shifted to BJP. And with Sabarimala, CPM too lost it’s Hindu friendly party tag. So many Ezavas too shifted loyalties to BJP and Congress.
But this time, Congress was the main beneficiary since BJP still does not have a strong base. Defeating Left was more important than hatred for Congress.
If you see the 2019 Lok Sabah elections and distribution of Ezhavas and Nairs, BJP has definitely made significant inroads into both the communities vote bank.
But there is still resentment between the 2 communities. To ensure max transfer of Hindu votes into its kitty, either
- the BJP has to make efforts to bring both the SNDP (caste organization of Ezhavas) and NSS (caste organization of Nairs) on the same page. (very difficult)
- or aggressively use RSS to unite the 2 communities politically
This is Pejawar Mutt Seer of Udupi Krishna Mutt. He is the architect of the Sangh Pariwar in Karnataka. A highly respected figure, even to this day, he guides the VHP and RSS. He was largely responsible for uniting Hindus in the coast and reaching out to fishermen and Dalits and thereby preventing their conversions. Especially fishermen became the backbone of Sangh Pariwar along with the Dominant Brahmins, thereby providing BJP with a significant base.
Even to this day, BJP is reaping benefits of his efforts to unite Hindus in the coast. Ultimately BJP needs a Pejawar Seer like figure in Kerala.
While Kerala resembles Coastal Karnataka,
- Tamil Nadu resembles Old Mysuru Region. Coincidently this region has a most of Tamil population of Karnataka too!
- Andhra resembles Eastern parts of Karnataka. Coincidently this region has the most number of Telugus in Karnataka as well!
- Telangana resembles the Hyderabad Karnataka regions.
- Southern Maharashtra resembles the Bombay Karnataka regions.
Since the question demands only Kerala and TN, I will briefly touch upon TN.
In TN, we have to see everything purely in terms of caste. Like Karnataka where Lingayats are concentrated in North Karnataka regions, Vokkaligas in Old Mysuru regions, Brahmins in Coastal Karnataka and Bangalore regions, and Dalits spread uniformly throughout Karnataka, in a similar way Gounders, Vanniyars, Thevars, Devendra Kula Velalars, Nadars, Parayars,Arundadiyars are dominant in their respective regions and where there is overlap, there is caste rivalry.
Though the minority population in Karnataka is more than TN, the minority vote doesn’t matter.BJP has simply made minority vote irrelevant in Karnataka. But in the case of TN, they are concentrated and matter a lot in many assembly segments.
The biggest set back for AIADMK this time was a division of Thevar votes between itself and AMMK.
The BJP in order to become dominant in TN must aggressively woo the Thevars. When compared to all other communities, BJP can more easily connect with them since this community has many Subhas Chandra Bose supporters. After making significant inroads in the state of Subhas Chandra Bose, it is natural that BJP must target his fans.
At the same time, BJP must use local icons like Muthuramalinga Thevar to make Thevars more close to BJP.
Similarly, BJP must aggressively woo even the Gounders. They are dominant in western TN. Also, Kannadigas are in significant numbers in places like Nilgiri and Coimbatore Districts. Already BJP has a base here due to communal riots 2 decades ago. With a large section of Nadars, a section of Devendra Kula Velalars and a large section of Vanniyar votes via PMK, the NDA minus AIADMK can make significant inroads. Must build the party to reap benefits.
Ultimately the problem with both Kerala and TN BJP is that there are no strong leader.
In the case of Karnataka, there was Yeddyurappa who lead from the front and Ananth Kumar from the back. They built BJP from scratch. Currently, with their efforts and RSS support, the current BJP is in such a position that it easily surpasses even the Congress during its peak days. That’s not the case in TN and Kerala.
Ultimately BJP needs to make leaders and not wait for Rajnikanth to come like God and save them! Thus, BJP in South India can become reality.
Title : BJP in South India: Mission Kerala and Tamil Nadu