A clutch of states in the Hindi heartland is up for grabs. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh will hold assembly elections soon and the attention of the nation and the psephologists is, unsurprisingly, glued to the north of the country. Meanwhile interesting — significant — political developments seem to be taking place in the lands south of the Vindhyas. These should not go unnoticed. In Tamil Nadu, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has declared that it would no longer be a part of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance. Meanwhile, in neighbouring Karnataka, the Janata Dal (Secular) has stitched up an alliance with the saffron party. But this announcement, too, has resulted in some upheavals. Some Muslim leaders of the JD(S), irked by H.D. Deve Gowda jettisoning the party’s commitment to a secular ethos, have resigned; there are whispers that many more would follow suit, unveiling the possibility of the JD(S) being weakened further on account of schisms. But that should not deflect public attention from the principal factor at play: the BJP’s diminishing acceptability among regional allies. This is a phenomenon that transcends geographical boundaries. The Shiromani Akali Dal ditched the BJP in the north; the erstwhile undivided Shiv Sena did the same in the west, while the Janata Dal (United) has turned from friend to foe in the east. Two reasons remain common to these partings: the BJP’s penchant for deepening its political imprint by weakening its allies and, this is especially relevant in the South, its persistent ideological differences with its partners. The BJP’s position on the sanatan dharma debate may have cost it its partnership with the AIADMK. It is possible that after the fire in Manipur, the BJP’s alliances in the Northeast could come under pressure as well.
These realignments would undoubtedly have a bearing on the national elections. The BJP has an inconsequential presence in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. It has lost power in Karnataka. It is now friendless in Tamil Nadu. Its electoral kitty in the South is unlikely to be handsome, provided the Opposition alliance gets its act right. The Congress is capable of posing a spirited challenge in the northern states, except for Uttar Pradesh. Some anti-incumbency cannot be ruled out against the BJP after its two terms in power in Delhi. Could it be that the race for 2024 would turn out to be closer than what the BJP and its media cohorts would like to project?