NEW DELHI: Narendra Modi has set his eyes on southern states for both, short as well as long-term political gains. For this, PM Modi’s recent two-day visit to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh was a pointer to this. Two of these states are due for Assembly elections next year and the longterm goal is, obviously, the 2024 Lok Sabha election.
The election season is already on. After Himachal and Gujarat, the focus will be shifted to Karnataka and Telangana. In the former, elections are only months away; in the latter, in less than a year. Alongside, off course, the groundwork is being laid for the big battle in 2024. PM Modi’s visit to the South was an action-packed affair and he was on his feet all through the day. He attended several events and laid foundation stones for projects worth Rs 25,000 crore. The first stop was Karnataka, where PM Modi inaugurated semi-high-speed Vande Bharat Express, the first in South India, and the Terminal 2 at the Kempe Gowda International Airport, built at a cost of Rs 5,000 crore. He also launched the Bharat Gaurav Kashi Darshan train.
The highlight of the visit was the unveiling of the statue of Bengaluru’s founder Nadaprabhu Hiriya Kempegowda. The 108-feet statue, dubbed as the ‘Statue of Prosperity’, has entered the Guinness Book of World Records for being the first and the tallest statue of a city’s founder.
The unveiling of the statue and its timing is of significance as Karnataka gears up for the Assembly polls. Kempegowda is the most prominent figure of the Vokkaligas, the second-most dominant community in the state. It has traditionally supported the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Congress. Now the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has never won a clear majority in the state, is doing all it can to woo the Vokkaliga voters.
The BJP has never managed to win in Tamil Nadu but has over the years turned into a strong opposition. Under the leadership of state party chief K Annamalai, it has become the ‘third force’ in Tamil Nadu. In the urban local body by-polls in February, the BJP made deep inroads by winning over 300 seats. It has tied up with the main opposition, AIADMK, which will lead the alliance in the state.
After Tamil Nadu, the PM laid the foundation stone of multiple projects in Telangana. The buzz among political circles is that if the BJP faces setbacks in the Hindi heartland, the party will try to offset it by gaining healthy numbers in states like West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, where the upside is evident. That is why PM Modi’s visit to the southern states, in the middle of the Gujarat campaign, was very significant