Union Home minister Amit Shah’s recent whirlwind of southern states is aimed at strengthening BJP’s base in Karnataka and reviving its prospects in Tamil Nadu.
The home minister flew over Karnataka for an aerial survey of flood affected areas. Since he skipped Kerala, which was also ravaged by floods, the ruling CPI(M) cried foul and pointed out that he was discriminating against the state.
Andhra Pradesh chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy and his counterpart in Telangana, K Chandrasekhar Rao, are trying to reboot their relationship with the BJP following the quick turn of events in Parliament due to passage of bill revoking Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.
Jagan spoke to Shah and sought more funds for flood relief. Southern states, especially parts of Karnataka and Kerala are reeling under heavy floods. Landslides and accidents caused by rains have so far claimed more than 200 lives in the two states. Kerala is the worst affected with landslides flattening villages and claiming more than 100 lives.
Though Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa failed to install a cabinet in Karnataka even weeks after his taking up the post, he is not facing any political storm as a weakened Opposition is unable to mount pressure. To help Yediyurappa, Shah took the tour and also sent in finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman for an on-the-spot inspection.
Shah is also mounting a strategy for Tamil Nadu where BJP has drawn a blank so far. He shared dais with superstar Rajinikanth which is a clear sign of a new political alignment in the state.
On the face of it, the event was a book launch chronicling Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu’s two years in office. But the messaging was clearly aimed at Tamil Nadu electorate. Rajinikanth first praised Narendra Modi- Amit Shah duo and said the pair was like “Krishna and Arjun” and later went on to praise the abrogation of Article 370.
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There was no specific reason for the book release event to be organised in Chennai as Naidu hails from Andhra Pradesh. Obviously, the event was a pretext to explain the meaning of abrogation of Article 370 to the people of Tamil Nadu. All the speakers dwelt on the subject, but the real message was delivered by Rajinikanth.
His praise of the duo and positive portrayal of the abrogation in simple Tamil was aimed at the vast electorate of the state.
BJP is already working behind the scenes for a Hindu consolidation. The latest being the party’s encouragement to devotees offering prayers to the deity of Athi Varadar in Kanchipuram. The deity surfaces from a waterbody once in 40 years and at the last count 100 million devotees had visited the temple.
This is likely to rattle the DMK. Though the DMK won the Vellore Lok Sabha bye-election, it managed the victory only by a narrow margin of 8,000 votes after six recounts. The AIADMK managed to give a tough fight to the DMK.
Issues such as Triple Talaq and scrapping of Article 370 were discussed hotly in the electioneering. Amit Shah has set a target of winning 20 Lok Sabha seats from Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the 2024 elections. Besides Shah plans to appoint leaders with strong RSS-BJP links as governors in southern states.