India: Can Modi-Shah pull off a Tripura in Tamil Nadu?

  • Can the lotus bloom in Tamil Nadu? It’s a question that has gained traction over the past few days, especially after BJP’s stupendous success in the northeast. The party’s victory is more staggering in a state like Tripura, where it has dismantled a communist regime, that reigned supreme for 25 years.
  • Had someone foretold this five years ago, people would have laughed it away, as the saffron party had a mere 1.5% vote in the last elections. Despite this, if BJP was able to clinch a win in Tripura, why not Tamil Nadu, where the party has a vote share of around 3%? However, the similarity ends there.
  • Unlike Tripura, in Tamil Nadu, the BJP’s vote share has remained stagnant for decades and peaked only twice in 1998 and 1999, when it came to power at the Centre under A B Vajpayee — but by aligning with the AIADMK or the DMK.
  • While the Dravidian parties have since not repeated what they termed a “mistake”, even the ‘Modi wave’ at its peak in 2014 could help a BJP-led alliance in the state get only two Lok Sabha seats — one for itself and another for ally PMK. BJP has ambitious leaders who wish to see the party come to power in TN, but have seldom done enough to strengthen it at the ground level — a problem equally faced by another national party, the Congress in the state.
  • Despite lack of cadres, the Congress still has vote strength among the dalits, minorities and linguistic minorities in the state. On the contrary, the BJP is seen as an alien party in Tamil Nadu and happens to be a liability in an alliance.
  • The social fabric of Tamil Nadu is made of almost 40% dalits and minorities. Among the remaining 60%, the backward classes and the most backward classes have tailored in the causes of social justice and reservation. While the BJP lacks credible leadership of stature in Tamil Nadu, the stand taken by it on several issues have sent out a signal that it is against the interests of the state.
  • “There is no electoral space for BJP in Tamil Nadu and the party does not have the kind of leaders with stature, who can connect and strengthen the party and create a cadre base here,” said political analyst N Sathiya Moorthy.
  • But then, BJP’s success in Assam or other northeastern states has not been attributed to any state leader, but to the might of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. The duo does not believe in reinventing the wheel and this deadly combo could well have something up their sleeve for Tamil Nadu too. With summer around, one may need to wait for spring for the flowers to bloom.

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