May 17, 2024


Will Andhra Pradesh be the BJP’s gateway to the South?

(Image credit: BJP Andhra Pradesh’s X post)

Phase 4 of the Lok Sabha elections is done and dusted. Among the states that went to polls was Andhra Pradesh for Lok Sabha and Assembly seats. It’s an interesting state since South India has always been a thorn in the side of the BJP.

The BJP has previously boasted about its chances of getting 400+ seats this time. They’ll need to overperform in states like Andhra Pradesh to make that happen. It’s the YSR Congress on one side and the BJP, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Jana Sena Party (JSP) on the other. If they succeed in the state, could that pave the way for further inroads into the Southern states?


The BJP hasn’t been shy about focussing on the southern states. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it a point to increase his visits to the region. Despite its excellent performance in 2014 and 2019, for the BJP, South India remains a tough nut to crack. They’re hoping to change that this time.

In 2019, the party bagged only 29 of the 129 seats in the five southern states. Of the 29, 25 were in Karnataka. It didn’t win a single seat in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh. That 29 is a slight improvement from the 21 it won in 2014. This isn’t restricted to Lok Sabha elections. Assembly elections haven’t been too kind to the party in South India.

Modi has expressed confidence that South India will spring the biggest surprise come counting day and predicted significant advances for the BJP in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and of course, Andhra Pradesh.

Acknowledging that going it alone won’t suffice, the BJP allied with the TDP and the JSP.

The state’s political landscape has transformed a lot over the past few decades. The rise of the YSR Congress has changed things. Before the state’s bifurcation in 2014, the state had 42 Lok Sabha seats. In 2019, YSR got 151 out of 175 assembly seats and 22 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats.

For Chandrababu Naidu heading the TDP, some see this contest as one of political survival. He’s coming off a particularly traumatic time following his arrest last September and subsequent two-month jail stint. The TDP is on the back foot, and Naidu needs to reestablish its dominance and have a succession plan in place.

While the BJP is contesting only 10 seats this time, it’s hoping that a good performance from its allies can set the stage for broader expansion into South India. Is that bound to happen, or will South India’s firewall against the party remain?

VIEW: It has an excellent chance

The BJP has seemingly allied with the right people. As far as Naidu is concerned, he’s garnered quite a bit of sympathy since his arrest and imprisonment. The BJP and its allies have hit the right notes on Jagan Mohan Reddy – the burden of incumbency, cases pending against him, and being seen as inaccessible.

The ace in the hole for the TDP alliance could be the influential Kapu community, thanks to actor-politician Pawan Kalyan of the JSP positioning himself as their representative. In the east and western Godavari districts, their vote share is 15-18%. There’s a lot of dissent among them over the lack of jobs and inflation of essential commodities. There’s some reporting on the ground to show them moving toward the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The BJP has targeted the YSR Congress’ expensive welfare schemes. They’ve said it has pushed the state into a financial mess. Jagan is aware of the anti-incumbency and initially dropped sitting MLAs or changed their constituencies. Whatever wave he anticipated didn’t come, and he embarked on a 22-day statewide bus tour. The NDA is expected to put up a tough fight in the northern districts like Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, and Srikakulam.

COUNTERVIEW: A mountain to climb

The BJP is unlikely to escape its “Hindu party” tag anytime soon. Perhaps they don’t want to, especially since that’s a core part of their appeal elsewhere in the country. That doesn’t play well in South India, and it has certainly hurt the party in the region. The southern region is also dominated by popular regional parties. Even if you give them Karnataka, that boiled down to BS Yediyurappa’s popularity among the Lingayat community. If the BJP is to grow in the south, it can’t rely solely on Modi’s popularity in certain urban pockets.

While the BJP has been smart about forming alliances, it hasn’t panned out the way it would’ve wanted to in the past. It took five months for the TDP and JSP to finalise their alliance, and even after, there was dissent among some in the BJP leadership. Jagan and the YSR Congress have deftly capitalised on Naidu’s flip-flopping. He walked out of the alliance with the BJP in 2018 and wasn’t shy about his feelings toward Modi.

There’s some resentment against the BJP for some of its decisions, like putting up the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant for sale and a non-operational Railway Zone in Visakhapatnam. The party also hasn’t invested in strong state leaders like Tamil Nadu’s Annamalai.

Reference Links:

  • NDA eyes turnaround in Andhra Pradesh, Jagan Reddy hopes 2019 repeat; Key seats, candidates – Hindustan Times
  • From Capital Row to Caste Dynamics: The Deciding Factors in Andhra Pradesh Polls – The Quint
  • In numbers: What’s holding the BJP back in South India? – India Today
  • Andhra Pradesh Polls: YSRCP, TDP, Congress Face A Momentous Battle – NDTV
  • As Andhra Pradesh votes today, how a resurgent TDP is hoping to dislodge Jagan Mohan Reddy – Indian Express
  • Modi steals spotlight as NDA gathers momentum in Andhra Pradesh – Hindustan Times
  • BJP banks on Naidu, TDP on lack of jobs, Jagan on labharthi factor in Andhra battle – India Today

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) Andhra Pradesh will be the BJP’s gateway to the South.

b) Andhra Pradesh won’t be the BJP’s gateway to the South.


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