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Home > 2024 > South Gets Ready for Poll | JP Gadkari

Mainstream, VOL 62 No 15, April 13, 2024

South Gets Ready for Poll | JP Gadkari

Friday 12 April 2024, by J P Gadkari


With all the States in southern region of the country going to polls in the first four phases - April 19 to May 13 - the election campaign by all parties is in full swing in this region. Among the States Tamil Nadu will be the first one to have the polling in one day - on April 19. The other States which will have polling in one day are Kerala - April 26, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana - May13. Karnataka which has 28 seats will have election in two phases - April 19 for 14 seats and April 26 for another 14 seats. For two seats in Goa polling will take place on May 7 in third phase and one seat each in Andaman Nicobar, Lakshadweep and Puducherry on April 19 in the first phase.

Though this is mainly a review and analysis of various political parties in the fray, it will be interesting to note here how the schedule of polling for northern, western and eastern regions of the country verses the southern region is planned and the probable reasons behind it.

While the total number of seats for which polling will be held in the country in seven phases will be 544, the polling in five southern States for 134 seats will take place in first four phases - April 19 to May 13. Obviously, the political parties in the southern States are given much less time for campaigning than their counterparts in northern, eastern and western States. Keeping the schedule in mind it appears that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had already finished three-fourths of his campaigning in southern States which he started much before, even before the schedule was announced.

Secondly, while in four States in southern region there is one day polling - Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telengana and Goa - it is only in two States in northern region - Haryana and Delhi - in fifth phase. It is understandable that polling can be spread out in bigger States like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar and West Bengal with large number of seats but there is no such need to do it in smaller States such as Jharkhand.

Politically speaking the poll schedule appears to have been drawn to give advantage to ruling BJP at the Centre and particularly P M Modi for campaigning extensively and with convenience. For instance, the opposition ruled Jharkhand, where the sitting Chief Minister Hemant Soren has been arrested without having concrete proof of having committed a crime, the polling for total 14 seats have been spread in four phases, which obviously goes to the advantage of BJP for gaining more time to concentrate for maneuvering in breaking the hold of opposition.

This much about the poll schedule. Coming to the poll prospects of different political parties in southern region, the general impression one gets is that despite Prime Minister’s intense campaigning and his repeated visits to all Southern States in general and Kerala and Tamil Nadu in particular or the effect of Rama mandir consecration or the mischievous move on Kachateevu have not changed the situation in favour of BJP. On the contrary much now depends on Karnataka and Telengana, the two Congress-ruled States to give opposition a much needed boost.

In Tamil Nadu where the polling is scheduled in first phase for all the 39 (Thirtynine) seats, a very smooth seat-sharing agreement between the ruling DMK, Congress and Left parties is going to prove a great advantage to the opposition. Infact there is no strong opposition to the ruling DMK that exists in the State with AIADMK already disintegrating and BJP miserably failing to make a headway despite making serious efforts to gain a foothold. The Sanatan dharma controversy could not make much impact and is almost forgotten.

With hardly a week left for polling in the State, P M Narendra Modi is once again making a desparate bid to raise the Kachateevu issue by bolstering the regional sentiments over a matter which was settled between India and Sri Lanka some fifty years ago. He has however no answer to the question posed by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin that as Prime minister for the last 10 years why he did not do anything if he thinks that it was a "great historical blunder" of Indira Gandhi Government to have given away Kachateevu to Sri Lanka in 1976 ? In an interview given to Indian Express, Mr Stalin has described Modi’s reference to Kachateevu issue as shedding "crocodile tears".

Another issue on which Stalin has been concentrating in his campaign is abolition of institution of Governor.
His own cnfrontation with Tamil Nadu Governor, Mr Ravi on many occasions in recent past is quite well known. He has openly accused the Centre of running a "parallel" government in the State which toes the BGP line. He, therefore, is demanding the abolition of the Governor’s institution itself. This demand has wide public support.

Another State in the southern region which is constantly being targeted by Modi is Kerala. Despite determined effort to atleast have an opening, BJP in 2019 election had put the veteran elder, Metroman, Shridharan as its candidate. But even that attempt had failed. This time they have put Union Minister Rajeev Chandrashekhar as their candidate to contest against a veteran Congressman Shashi Tharoor who is sitting M P fromThiruvaanthapuram. He has won the seat thrice from that constituency. Kerala is going to polls in the second phase on 26 April with polling for all 20 seats in one go. Indications are this time too BJP will draw a blank.

Andhra Pradesh which goes to polls on May 23 in Fourth Phase for all its 25 seats would witness a four- cornored contest. The BJP which is hobnobbing with both Jagan Mohan Reddy’s ruling party and his bitter political rival Chandra Babu Naidu’s TDP will have also to face Congress party led by Jagan’s sister who has recently taken over leadership of the Congress party in the State. She has earned a good mark during the last four months by consolidating the organisational set up of the party and preparing the party for the forthcoming election battle.

Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSCRP had swept the 2019 Lok Sabha elections by winning 22 out of 25 seats conceding only three to PDP with Congress and BJP drawing a blank.
Earlier in 2018, Jagan’s party had swept the Asdembly elections winning 153 seats out of 176 leaving only 23 seats for TDP. Jagan’s Govt in the State retains the same popularity as in 2018 or even more going by the recent reports. With that it should not surprise anyone if YSCRP repeats the feat once again. all other parties seem to have very little chance to compete with it.

That leaves the two Congress ruled States of Karnataka and Telengana.
While Karnataka has 28 LS seats, Telengana has 17 . In Karnataka polling for 14 seats is taking place on April 26 in the second phase. In Telengana the polling for all its 17 seats will be held on May 13 in fourth phase.

In 2019 Lok Sabha elections BJP had won 25 seats out of 28 seats in Karnataka conceding only one seat each to Congress, one to JDs and one to an independent. However, with Congress winning the Assembly election with a thumping majority last year, there is a change in the situation now. Secondly, Congress has managed to avoid any major dissidence while selecting its candidates for all the 28 seats. Thirdly majority of its candidates are young and most of them are from the second and third wruing of the party. Among them are four women and one candidate from Muslim community. Quite afew of the candidates are first timers. None of the old veterans are in the fray, with Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge declining to contest from his Gulbarga seat and former Chief Minister M Veerappa Moily being denied nomination from his Chikaballapura seat from where he had lost election last time.

On the other hand the BJP in Karnataka is facing lot of dissidence as it has dropped nine sitting M PS among whom there is a former Chief Minister, a State party chief and three hardcore members who had created embarassing situation for the party in the past. One of its tallest leaders, E S Eshwarappa who was the Dy Chief Minister in earlier BJP Govt in the State has even gone to the extent of filing his nomination papers against State party Chief B S Ravindra who is the son of former Chief minister and most important leader of BJP in Karnataka B S Yediyurappa. It has however retained most of its stalwards and old timers in the remaining seats. The party also accomodated a former old timer and also a Chief Minister Jagdish Shettar who had defected to the Congress during the last Assembly election but later did the ’Ghar Wapasi’ when he did not get any important post there.

One of the advantages the Congress party both in Karnataka as well as Telengana have is that they had not to go through a seat-sharing exercise as they have no allies here with whom they had to go through this exercise. There is a straight fight between the Congress and BJP or its ally J Ds. In both these States the local leadership of the party is very strong and shrewd and capable of countering the manoeuvres of the BJP. KPCC President D K Shivakumar has even earned the distinction of being known as the "Chanakya" of Congress in the south.

Another advantage in both Karnataka and Telengana to the Congress is that it has still retained its popularity in both the States as they have fully implemented all the promises that were made by them during the Assembly Elections. The ’Griha Lakshmi’ and free bus travel for all classes of women schemes in Karnataka have become extremely popular, particularly among the women. voters.

The Congress leaders in both these States are quietly working in their respective States without making any tall claims. While both Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and KPCC President D K Shivakumar have announced a modest figure of winning 20 ( Twenty) seats out of 28 seats in Karnataka, Telengana Chief Minister Revanth Reddy, who is also the party chief has claimed that Congress will win 11 (Elevan) seats out of the total 17 seats from the State.

Karnataka is going for poll only for 14 (Fourteen) of its 28 seats on
April 26, in the second phase of the election, and Telengana will go to polls on May 13 in the fourth phase both are now fully prepared to meet the forthcoming challenge.

Meanwhile, in Tamilnadu the contest between the BJP State President K Annamalai and Congress’s P Ganapati Rajkumar in Coimbatore constituency is drawing much attention, in Kerala it is the contest between Congress leader Shashi Tharoor and BJP’s Rajeev Chandrasekhar which has created great interest.

June 4 looks far too away waiting with bated breath for the tantalising results which may bring about major change in the political scenario of the country.

April 12, 2024

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