Dynamics of South Indian politics

K R Sudhaman

Seeds of resentment against Indian National Congress were sown in South India much before Independence because of the so-called national party increasingly becoming a pro-cow belt party even though many leaders of national stature have emerged from South India. The pro-Hindi stance under the garb of nationalism in the BJP and periodically in the Congress had given birth to regionalism, which took roots first in South India. The very first general elections in India in 1952 saw Congress struggling to form a government in the then Madras province even though it swept the polls elsewhere in the country. At the behest of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the services of Independent India's first and the only Indian Governor-General C Rajagopalachari had to be sought to stitch a Congress government in the Madras Province, when Communists almost managed to form the government there. After stabilising the government, he handed over reigns to K Kamaraj in 1954. Tamil Nadu became the first state in the country to have a government formed by a regional party, DMK, in 1967 and since then no national party, be it Congress or now BJP, has managed to form government there. Rajaji and Nehru fell apart subsequently and Rajaji was instrumental in helping DMK to form the government and C N. Annadorai, who led the first non-Congress government, once led a movement for separation of the state from India. In Kerala, the first Communist government, led by EMS Namboodiripad, was formed in 1957 and in the last three or four decades there has been no single party rule in the state. The Congress-led UDF and CPI(M)-led Left Front have been coming to power alternately. In the case of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, the picture is slightly different. Though regional parties have emerged since 1983 in the two states, which are now three with the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh into Telangana and AP, power has been shared between regional and national parties.
There is a general dislike of North Indian politicians in South India as they are perceived and seen to be promoting only the interest of cow-belt. There is also a feeling in South India that politicians from north want to thrust upon them Hindi putting them at a disadvantage. Until recently not many in the North knew there existed four important and ancient languages in the South. For North Indians, anything south of Vindhyas, is all the same. North Indians know very few freedom fighters from South though there were many, who were in the forefront. This sort of indifference and step-motherly approach of North Indian politicians have led to growing resentment in South India for North Indian political leaders, who are seen as discriminatory, corrupt and have scant respect for the welfare of South Indians. This may not be totally true but the feeling that northern politicians ride rough shod over South India is only growing and this is increasingly visible in the entire South India.
It would be interesting to see how BJP fares in the elections to state assemblies in coming years. Though BJP is trying hard to dominate South Indian politics as well, it is seen as a party that would impose Hindi under the garb of nationalism. Besides there is a general fear that communal tension could flare up in South, which has hardly had any communal violence in the last few decades. The Muslims and Christians in the South have no problems with Hindus and they participate in Hindu festivals as well besides having blended well with the local people and culture. Also BJP is seen as a brahminical party in the South even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi belonged to a backward community. Anti-Brahmin feeling is very strong in South even though it has mellowed down in recent years with improvement in education and more job opportunities. With not many Brahmins, barring a few exceptions, getting into politics or government jobs in South, the resentment too is diminishing day by day.
Karnataka is among the first southern states likely to go to assembly polls in early 2018. Congress party, headed by a dalit leader Siddharamaiah, is in power at the moment. The main contest will be between Congress and BJP. Karnataka is the only southern state where BJP has established firm roots. Congress always secured 30-35 per cent of the vote share, mainly from backwards and dalit communities. Even during the worst of times it secured at least 30 per cent votes. BJP came to power for the first time in 2009 on its own securing the highest ever 33 per cent votes. Its leader B S Yedyurappa, who is from upper Lingayat caste, accounting for 9 per cent of the state population, is seen as a very corrupt leader, whereas Congress chief minister Siddharamaiah, though facing the anti-incumbency factor, still may scrape through because of its good work done for the uplift of the poor and backward classes. Opinion polls too suggest this. To scuttle whatever little chance BJP has in Karnataka in the next assembly polls, Siddaramaiah has whipped up the anti-Hindi and anti-communal feeling in the state.
In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, regional parties TRS and Telugu Desam are in power at the moment. The elections are due in 2019 and at the moment both the parties are going strong in their respective states. BJP is emerging as a political force in these two states but the rivals to these regional parties could still be Congress, which however is rudderless at the moment in both the states.
So regional forces are to stay in southern states and if at all any national party can nurse any hope of capturing power, it would perhaps be Congress in Karnataka and Congress-led UDF in Kerala in the next assembly polls as things stand today. (IPA)

Friday, 27 October, 2017