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How BJP is banking on Karnataka to lead its poll push in Tamil Nadu, Kerala & Puducherry

The BJP has sent senior ministers, Bengaluru corporators and even its social media team in Karnataka to the poll-bound states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

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Bengaluru: The BJP is relying heavily on its leaders from Karnataka, the only southern state where it holds power on its own, for its electioneering efforts in poll-bound Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.

From senior ministers, MLAs, corporators and even a social media team, the bulk of the BJP’s election strategising teams in the two states and the union territory are drawn from Karnataka.

This starts right from the top, with BJP veteran C.T. Ravi, who belongs to Chikkamagaluru, heading the party’s efforts in Tamil Nadu. Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Dr Ashwath Narayan, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, who belongs to Dharwad, and Karkala MLA Sunil Kumar are in-charge of the party’s poll affairs in Kerala.

“There are more than 20 MLAs and many leaders from Karnataka who are well-versed in the local languages, be it Tamil or Malayalam,” said N. Ravikumar, the Karnataka BJP spokesperson. “We will seek their cooperation to help in the campaign.”

The party, its leaders say, is hoping to replicate its success in Karnataka, the only southern state it has a substantial presence.

The BJP is hoping to make a significant mark in Tamil Nadu, where it has not won a single seat since 2001, while looking to build on the one seat it won in Kerala in the 2016 assembly elections. It has never won a seat in Puducherry.

Hindutva push in Tamil Nadu

BJP general secretary Ravi is in-charge for party affairs in Tamil Nadu where it is in an alliance with the ruling All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). He is also in-charge of Goa and Maharashtra.

A product of the RSS, Ravi is known for his experience in mobilising support at the grassroots level. His strategic management of elections has been appreciated by Home Minister Amit Shah and party president J.P. Nadda, which is one of the major reasons
for him landing the responsibility.

Speaking to ThePrint, Ravi said the BJP campaign has been so strong that it has managed to get the once “atheist DMK” to start respecting the sentiments of Hindus and their religious customs and traditions.

“We are surely going to make a big impact in Tamil Nadu. The Vetrivel Yatra that we took out has shaken our opponents,” he said. “Had it not been for the BJP, the DMK would have continued to insult our gods, and that is totally unacceptable. They now know what it is to be fearful of God.”

Ravi has ensured that the social media team of the Karnataka BJP has been moved to Tamil Nadu and more than 200 BJP functionaries from the state unit have been brought in to coordinate the election campaign. Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa and several cabinet ministers are also expected to campaign in Tamil Nadu.

The BJP has an interesting relationship with Tamil Nadu. It won its first seat here way back in 1996, when it took the Padmanabhapuram constituency.

In 2001, the BJP partnered with the DMK and won four of the six seats it contested. The party won at Karaikudi (H. Raja), Mayilathurai (J Veerapandian), Mylapore (K.N. Lakshmanan ) and Thalli (K V Muralidharan).

Since the 2001 elections, however, the BJP has not won a single seat in Tamil Nadu.

Also read: Take pride in Tamil, oppose Hindi — how Dravidian ideals are influencing young voters in TN

Party looking at consolidation in Kerala

Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Dr Ashwath Narayan, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi and Karkala MLA Sunil Kumar are in-charge of the party’s poll affairs in Kerala

All three leaders are long-term loyalists of the BJP and products of the RSS. Of the three, it is Joshi who has been closely monitoring the BJP’s election strategy in the coastal state.

Kerala has among the highest RSS shakhas in the country but that has never translated into electoral gains for the BJP. The party’s Kerala unit was formed in 1981 but it has never made any impact in a state with significant Muslim and Christian populations.

The BJP opened its Kerala account only in 2016, when O. Rajagopal, one of the founding members of the Kerala unit, won the Nemom seat.

“Our vote share increased since Modiji took over as the PM. In the 2019 parliamentary elections, our vote share increased from around 11 per cent to close to 16 per cent (NDA alliance),” said K. Surendran, the Kerala’s BJP chief.

The NDA’s vote share was 15.20 per cent in the 2019 Parliamentary polls, with the BJP accounting for 12.93 per cent.

Surendran is contesting from Manjeshwar, a seat close to the Kerala-Karnataka border that has a considerable Kannada-speaking population.

Bengaluru corporators in Puducherry

In Puducherry, the BJP has deployed 35 corporators from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).

Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar has been appointed co-incharge of
Puducherry along with Nirmal Kumar Surana, who is in charge of the union territory.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: Karnataka MLAs cite ‘viral deepfakes’ of Obama in plea to restrain media after Jarkiholi case


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