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Editorial: Narendra Modi Leads Bharatiya Janata Party’s Southern Campaign

Port Wings, 13 Feb 2019:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 10 February inaugurated the last leg of the Chennai metro rail’s blueline and declared six underground metro stations through video-conferencing. In the presence of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minsiter O Panneerselvam and Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Modi flagged off Chennai Metro’s passenger services.

The Prime Minister also laid a foundation stone for modernisation of Chennai International Airport, (Phase-II), a new integrated terminal building at Tiruchirappalli airport, and a 100-bedded ESI hospital here. Modi also dedicated BPCL Ennore Coastal installation– state-of-the-art and fully automated oil storage and distribution facilities, with a project cost of Rs 393 crore and a crude oil pipeline from Chennai Port to Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited’s Manali refinery.

The regular visit by Narendra Modi to southern states during crucial final months of his current government sends out a clear message that BJP eyes more seats from the region to match their ambition of returning to power in Centre.

As such, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Guntur in Andhra Pradesh on 10 February 2019 is part of the BJP southern campaign where it faces a tall order to increase its footprints in four out of five states.

In Andhra Pradesh, where the BJP fought the 2014 elections in alliance with the TDP, it won two of the four seats it contested, while the TDP won 15. The TDP has since pulled out of the NDA government last March over the Centre’s ‘refusal to grant special category status’ to the state.

And with TDP supremo and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu playing the victim card, the BJP could find the going tough in the state.

The BJP is clearly focussing on development as it tries to woo Telugu voters. The BJP may find it even tougher in the other Telugu-speaking state, Telangana, where it won only one of the 17 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. In the assembly elections in December 2018, the BJP’s number came down to just one from the five seats it won in the previous election. Modi toured Tamil Nadu directly from Guntur, his second visit to the state since January 27.

During his last visit, Modi laid the foundation stone for the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Madurai amid black flag protests.

The BJP may have a better chance in Tamil Nadu where it is likely to ally with the AIADMK which has weakened since it split after Jayalalithaa’s death. The BJP had won only one of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state in 2014.

Last week, Tamil Nadu deputy chief minister and AIADMK coordinator O Panneerselvam clearly indicated that AIADMK leaders are in talks with a friendly national party for an alliance for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

During his two visits to Kerala last month, Modi had been highly critical of the Left Front government over its handling of protests against the Supreme Court order allowing women entry into the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala.

The BJP has been openly supporting the devotees who are opposed to women’s entry into the temple but in the recent local body bypolls in the state, it failed to make a mark. Out of the 39 seats in which elections were held, the BJP won only two. A sustained pro-Hindutva campaign hasn’t worked for the party in Kerala so far.

Since the date for election comes very closer by every passing day, one can expect more visits by BJP stalwarts to South India with only agenda—get more seats from the region that largely remained out of BJP’s fold.

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