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HVK Archives: Making its mark in the south

Making its mark in the south - The Observer

Dina Nath Mishra ()
February 5, 19980

Title: Making its mark in the south
Author: Dina Nath Mishra
Publication: The Observer
Date: February 5, 19980

In the fourth general election, when the Congress lost
substantial ground to its opponents in the north, it retained its
hold over the south. Even in the sixth general election in 1977,
when the entire north India was lost to Janata Party and both
Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi were defeated, the Congress hold
on south India remained intact. Indira Gandhi had to go to
Chickmagaloor in Karnataka to stage part one of the comeback.
But what Is the situation today?. In no southern state is the
Congress ruling. In the last general elections, it got just 38
seats. This includes three of its allies. How did it happen?

Additionally, Congress has been a very strong party in the
southern states. The story of the erosion of the Congress base
started with the split m the party In 1969 when leaders like K
Kamraj and Nijalingappa of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka respectively
sided with Congress(O). That was the point Indira Gandhi reduced
the party to the status of a family-owned one. Being a mass
leader, Kamraj had full control of the TNCC. To defeat TNCC(I),
Indira Gandhi had a fatal alliance with DMK and virtually handed
over the state to DMK for good in lieu of lion's share of the Lok
Sabha seats in the state. It was the beginning of the emergence
of a regional force in a big way. In time to come, DMK was split
and AIADMK emerged which was later inherited by Jayalalitha
Congress had aligned with DMK and AIADMK in alternate elections.
When former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao went ahead to have an
alliance with AIADMK, congress split further and almost the whole
Party walked away with TMC led by Moopanar, reducing Congress to
a cipher in the state.

Similarly, the dynastic arrogance mothered TDP In Andhra. Late
chief minister T Anjaiyya of Andhra was Publicity humiliated and
Telugu pride was hurt. Popular film star N T Rama Rao floated the
TDP and cashed In on Telugu Pride. The congress was trounced m
the subsequent elections. The rest is recent history. But the
fact remains that Congress Played the role of the mother of
regional parties. In Karnataka after the split in 1969, Congress
(O) was in power under the leadership of Virendra Patil. Here too
it was the Congress which caused the formation of a regional
force. In Kerala, numerous caste- and religion-based formations
were either caused or encouraged by the Congress. Congress
engineered numerous in parties like Muslim League and Congress
and thrived on alliances with them.

The mothering of regional forces cost a lot to the Congress and
democracy. Now, it is left to the BJP to bring them back In the
national mainstream in the true sense of word and let them share
power at the Centre. It may be remembered that in this election
even DMK leader Karunanidhi did not utter a single word regarding
an Aryan party aligning with a Dravidian one in Tamil Nadu. Such
is the impact of BJP-AIADMK grouping. As far as BJP is concerned,
in various phases of its history a number of tags were attached
to It by the whole range of its opponents. The tag was that it
was a cow-belt party. It was the considered view of all anti-BJP
forces that BJP does not have anything in south India.

The outcome of several elections confirmed this half-truth.

The fact is that BJP has its organisation in whole of south India
right from 60s. It may be recalled that as far back as in 1968
BJP had its all India sessions in Kozikode in Kerala and very
successfully at that. Organisationally, in Kerala and Karnataka,
BJP has a bigger cadre base than some of the well-entrenched
parties in legislatures. A number of Sangh Parivar organisations
have been doing their work assiduously for decades. Even earlier
than that, BJP has been wining seats in legislative councils. In
last panchayat and local elections in Tamil Nadu, BJP's tally in
terms of elected representatives was bigger than any national
party like Congress, CPM or CPI. In Kerala, BJP cadre could
withstand the physical onslaught of the CPM. In parts of Andhra,
BJP had been strong enough to snatch a couple of seats in Lok
Sabha at one time. It may be recalled that it was BJP's Janga
Reddy who defeated P V Narasimha Rao in his own constituency in
Andhra. But it is a fact that till date BJP has not opened an
account in assembly or Lok Sabha in Kerala. Similar was the
situation of TN where the party could barely win one assembly
seats in last elections.

BJP leadership was quite conscious of its shortcoming in the
south. It has a realisation that without the support from the
south it cannot come to power at the Centre. The party leadership
and cadre has worked hard for the last one decade in the whole of
south. Four rath yatras criss-crossed the south in a very planned
way. Vajpayee and Advani both paid attention to the south
personally. Many of their programmes along with organisational,
agitational and constructive activities strengthened the party.
After the announcement of mid-term poll, they was to it that
proper alliances were worked out. First came the alliance with
AIADMK and three other parties in Tamil Nadu. Jayalalitha first
measured the popularity of Vajpayee and BJP and then offered an
open alliance to BJP. The Karnataka unit of BJP was riding very
high, for they thought that BJP alone would manage to win more
than half of the seats. But the central leadership prevailed upon
them to have an alliance with Ramkrishna Hegde's Lok Shakti.
Right now the response is enormous for BJP-Lok Shakti alliance.

In fact, Vajpayee factor has tremendous appeal among the south
Indian voters for the first time. The straw in the wind is
indicative enough. In Andhra top film actress Vijaya Shanti and
actor of Mohan Babu's stature along with scores artists joining
and campaigning for the party have boosted the campaign. Hundreds
of high-ranking retired armed forces personalities including it
generals and major general have joined the party. Over a dozen ex-
MPs belonging to the Congress and other parties, including that
of the 11th Lok Sabha, have joined the party in newspapers showed
an unbelievable quantum jump for BJP in the forthcoming elections
in Andhra. In Hyderabad all the three - UF, Vajpayee and Sonia -
had massive public meetings. All Talugu newspapers commented that
in terms of turnout and impact, Vajpayee's meeting has surpassed
the others. The same was the story of Marina Beach meetings in
Chennai by two fronts. The one attended by Vajpayee, Advani,
Jayalalitha etc overshadowed the UF rally. In Andhra the Congress
may retain its position, for it may retain its supremacy in Lok
Sabha or may even increase it marginally. UF has 80 out of 130
southern seats. It is bound to lose at least half of them.

BJP would be gaining at the cost of the United Front.

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