The remarkable alacrity with which the BJP tried to co-opt the filmy political star Rajinikanth reveals the saffron brigade's desperation to penetrate South Indian politics. Fired by the linguistic sub-nationalism, the south Indian states have always been unfertile terrain for the BJP and its predecessor, Jana Sangh. Even in Modi's heyday, the south Indian states remain a hard nut to crack for the Hindi-Hindu political narrative of BJP. At a time when the party runs governments in a record number of states, the South India presents a perplexing challenge to the Modi-Shah duo.
Each state has a story to offer. Karnataka was the first gateway opened for the BJP. But, the Lotus party has simply flittered away what seemed to be a golden opportunity to enter the South of Vindhyas, thanks to its infighting and corrupt leadership. The BJP's frantic bid to regain power in Karnataka is strongly resisted by the Congress regional satrap, Siddaramaiah who seems to be consummate at dealing with the BJP in its own language.
Kerala with its multi-religious social landscape and Left-dominated political discourse has always been elusive for the BJP right wing politics. Given the pusillanimity of Tamil regional parties, the BJP-led NDA was anyhow assured of the support of the either of the Dravidian parties. But, as Tamil Nadu slipped into political volatility in the wake of Jayalalithaa's demise, the BJP bosses in Delhi were too ambitious and started fishing in the troubled waters.
At first, the BJP seemed as if it was hoping on Sasikala bandwagon. The visuals of Prime Minister Narendra Modi consoling Sasikala when he flew down to Chennai to pay homage to departed AIADMK leader further gave credence to such speculation of BJP coming close to Sasikala-led AIADMK. In fact, Jayalalithaa was an ideological ally of Narendra Modi to an extent.
But, as the internal rebellion against the Mannargudi mafia intensified, the BJP smartly shifted its goal posts hoping for a larger share in the Tamil political cake. This reading prompted the BJP leadership to invest so heavily in OPS. But, the OPS faction failed to make it even as the gubernatorial position was also compromised to favour BJP's favourite for Jayalalithaa's heir.
The subsequent developments wherein Sasikala was not just denied the opportunity of becoming Chief Minister despite the AIADMK legislature party electing her as its leader and but was also sent to jail in the corruption case, the EPS faction revolted. Political observers feel that this could not have happened without the national BJP's consent for EPS takeover as the OPS failed to deliver for it. The BJP was the screenplay writer and the director for the strange political spectacle of warring OPS and EPS factions of AIADMK merging to remain in power.
Despite all such murky manoeuvres, the people of Tamil Nadu through RK Nagar verdict rejected the OPS-EPS and the BJP's ugly backdoor management. Sensing the mood of the electorate, the BJP immediately shifted its goal post yet again, this time in favour of DMK. Even as the court verdict in the sensational 2G spectrum case was awaited in a few days, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leaving aside political propriety, met the DMK patriarch. Though the BJP wants everyone to believe it to be a routine gesture, the political underpinnings were quite conspicuous. This only rewarded DMK with a humiliating defeat once again dashing BJP 's hopes in Tamil Nadu.
Embittered by series of jolts to its political machinations, the BJP now looks towards Rajinikanth, the self-styled messiah of spiritual politics; the phraseology is certainly to the liking of BJP. Still, the BJP pursues a carrot and stick approach towards Rajinikanth. While, the BJP state president already declared Rajini to be their natural ally – the claim none in Rajini camp contradicted – the BJP's Subramanian Swamy describes Rajinikanth as corrupt, fraudulent and illiterate and what not.
In the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, the BJP is in a love and hate relationship with the TDP, though the two parties share power in the state and at the Centre. Even as the party shares ministerial berths in Naidu cabinet, the influential state BJP leaders never miss an opportunity to criticise the TDP regime. Besides, the BJP keeps the main opposition YSR Congress in good humour.
The latter has unconditionally supported BJP nominees in Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections. Jaganmohan Reddy is certainly the option for BJP if it must estrange Chandrababu Naidu. The acquittal of DMK leader in 2G spectrum case, the lack of any progress on the cases in regard to YS Jaganmohan Reddy and the conviction of BJP adversary Lalu Prasad Yadav and BJP stalwart Subramanian Swamy calling Rajini, whom the party is wooing, as corrupt reveal the big picture in Indian politics. Though, it is technically wrong to make a political reading of the judicial process.
The fact that the Andhra Pradesh BJP leaders never criticise Jagan even while some of them attack their ally Naidu is a clear indication of BJP's policy of dual alignment with regional parties to derive maximum political mileage. The BJP in fact hoped to embrace the matinee idol Pawan Kalyan who campaigned for TDP-BJP combine in 2014. Pawan himself revealed recently that BJP president Amit Shah had requested him to merge his Jana Sena Party into BJP. No BJP leader so far denied these claims of Jana Sena chief.
But, Pawan felt the simmering discontent among Seemandhra people over the manner in which the Modi government betrayed the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh on a host of issues, especially Special Category Status, the promise on which the bifurcation of the state was predicated upon. The shrewd film star, known for his sharp political nose, chose not to sail with BJP.
In the neighbouring Telangana, the BJP and the ruling TRS are uncharitable allies. BJP state unit is critical of KCR's rule while the ministers in Modi cabinet shower praises on the TRS government. Besides, Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoys fine political and personal chemistry with TRS supremo K Chandrashekar Rao.
In 2014, the BJP's tally was almost saturated in many North Indian states. It has nothing to add in 2019. The Gujarat elections only reveal that BJP is bound to lose at least some seats in its bastions which it won in 2014. The party is desperately looking for compensating this loss with even little gains here and there. Thus, its piggyback politics in South India.