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Will Modi’s development pitch move the southern voters?
PM Modi during a roadshow in Tamil Nadu's Coimbatore. (Image Courtesy: twitter.com/narendramodi)

Will Modi’s development pitch move the southern voters?

| @indiablooms | 21 Apr 2024, 09:18 pm

Prime Minister Narendra Modi sounded the election bugle, with the slogan “Ab ki bar 400 paar,” declaring that his BJP-led NDA would cross 400 seats in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Modi’s assertion reflects his confidence and faith that the country would vote in favour of development and strong leadership provided by a cadre-run party like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in contrast to other parties which have been founded and run by a family or can have a family holding the reins.

According to the ABP-CVoter survey, the NDA is likely to miss its  400+ seats target but is projected to clinch a thumping victory, winning 373 out of the total 543 seats.

Image Courtesy: narendramodi.inImage Courtesy: narendramodi.in

The BJP could win 323 seats on its own, a rise of 20 seats since the last Lok Sabha polls of 2019, and comfortably beyond the majority mark of 272, according to the survey. The INC is projected to make a marginal gain over its 52-seat tally in 2019's polls.

The 400-seat mark in a house of 543 parliamentary seats, with the BJP alone winning 370, is a feat the Opposition Congress attained in 1984 after Prime Minister Indra Gandhi’s assassination.

With this assertion, Modi also wants to push for a BJP, which has acceptance across India, especially the South India.

PM Modi in Attingal, Kerala where he urged electors to vote against corruption (Image Courtesy: narendramodi.in) PM Modi in Attingal, Kerala where he urged electors to vote against corruption (Image Courtesy: narendramodi.in)

So far, South India has remained largely impervious to BJP’s influence. Analysts feel that South India views the BJP as a party rooted in North Indian politics, culture, and traditions and an outsider with no Dravidian connection. However, the BJP feels that the people of Tamil Nadu should look beyond politics that rely solely on Dravidian pride to appeal to the electors and vote for development.

Image Courtesy: narendramodi.in Image Courtesy: narendramodi.in

The five southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Telangana, and the union territories of Puducherry and Lakshadweep, constitute India’s most economically prosperous region with 30% of India’s GDP and 20% of the vote share in the Lok Sabha elections.

Despite Modi's efforts to convey that his administration has contributed to the growth of the Indian economy, the BJP secured only 30 out of the 131 seats in the region in 2019, with the majority coming from one state, Karnataka.

It failed to win any seats in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh, and also lost in the constituencies of Puducherry and Lakshadweep. Certain analysts foresee a similar outcome occurring again.

PM Modi campaigning in Srirangam, a city island in Tamil Nadu. (Image courtesy: videograb| twitter.com/narendramodi) PM Modi campaigning in Srirangam, a city island in Tamil Nadu. (Image courtesy: videograb| twitter.com/narendramodi)

The BJP and Modi have been making concerted efforts to make inroads into the state of Tamil Nadu, which, with 39 seats, sends the largest contingent of parliamentarians from the south to the national legislature.

The entire state of Tamil Nadu voted on April 19, and Modi has made at least six visits to the state in the run-up to the election.

He even used an artificial intelligence-driven app that translates his Hindi speeches into Tamil in real-time for audiences. He has often turned emotional, even shedding tears, in response to the massive turnouts in his rallies.

The BJP claims overwhelming support from the people of Tamil Nadu.

In the southern state, notions of nationalism have historically been viewed with skepticism, perceived as a means to uphold the longstanding dominance of Brahmins, who occupy the apex of India's intricate caste system.

However, neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi, nor other top leaders of BJP—Amit Shah, JP Nadda, Piyush Goyal—belong to the Brahmin community by caste.

PM Modi in KeralaPM Modi in Kerala's Kochi, clad in local attire, during one of his visits to the Left-ruled southern state. (Image courtesy: twitter.com/narendramodi)
PM Modi in Kerala's Kochi, clad in local attire, during one of his visits to the Left-ruled southern state. (Image courtesy: twitter.com/narendramodi)

The focus of the BJP also remains in Kerala where the BJP eyes at least four Lok Sabha seats where their vote shares rose in the past though not translating into wins, according to media reports.

To a question by the Malayam daily Mathrubhumi on South being a difficult terrain for BJP, PM Modi in an interview to the publication countered: "Your question is not factually correct. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP was the single largest party in Southern India. Until recently, we had a government in Karnataka. We are a part of the government in Puducherry. We have always been an important force in Telangana. Therefore, I do not agree with the binary view that the BJP lacks a presence in the South. This narrative suits the perspective of a few political analysts, but the facts tell a different story."

He said: "You may also know that three of our party presidents have come from South India. In 1984, when we were reduced to only two seats, one of them was from Southern India. Thus, the BJP has a very close link with the South."

"Looking at the present, I have been traveling across Southern India, and the response wherever I have gone has been phenomenal. I am confident that South India will bless the BJP in record numbers this time," PM Modi said.

Whether or not the BJP makes inroads in the southern territories now remains to be seen when the results are declared on June 4.

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