"Huge Victory": Amit Shah's Big Claim On BJP's 'Mission South' Chances

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party, battling the Congress-led INDIA bloc for a third straight term, has set itself a target of 370+ seats (400+ including its NDA partners).

Union Home Minister Amit Shah (File).

New Delhi:

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has predicted a "huge victory" for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok Sabha election in South India, a region where the ruling outfit has traditionally struggled for relevance and traction. "We are moving to a big victory in the four southern states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu," Mr Shah told NDTV in an exclusive interview.

Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu account for 109 seats, of which the BJP won 29 last time; 25 from Karnataka and four from Telangana. In both Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu the BJP failed to win any seat. The party was also blanked in Kerala, which has 20 Lok Sabha seats.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party, battling the Congress-led INDIA bloc for a third consecutive term, has set itself a target of 370+ seats (400+ including its National Democratic Alliance partners).

The bulk will likely come from its Hindi heartland base - including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Gujarat, etc. - which has over 200 seats.

In 2019 the party swept these states, winning over 190 of these seats, It will need a similarly strong result this time and a much improved score from the southern (and eastern) parts to hit its target.

The BJP must do this sans any significant alliance in South India; its biggest partner, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, walked out last year after internal squabbles.

READ | "We Will Get More Seats Than Congress In 5 South States": Amit Shah

Amit Shah and the Prime Minister have led the BJP's fight in the southern states, with Mr Modi making over a dozen visits to Kerala and Tamil Nadu alone this year, and senior leaders deployed in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Mr Shah was in Karnataka's Haveri this month and declared to news agency ANI, "We will get more seats than Congress in the five states in South India."

The Congress secured, in fact, fewer seats than the BJP in these five states last time; like the BJP, the party was routed in Andhra Pradesh (the ruling YSR Congress Party won 22 of 25 while N Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party picked up the other three) and got just one in Karnataka.

The Congress' big score came from Kerala, where the party won 15 seats while the BJP got zero.

The battle for South India has rapidly become one of the big headline points in this election, particularly since the Congress produced two thumping wins in the Karnataka and Telangana Assembly election, defeating the BJP and the Bharat Rashtra Samithi of K Chandrasekhar Rao.

READ | "PM's Popularity Will Translate Into Best Showing In South": Amit Shah

Last month Mr Shah, in another exclusive with NDTV, declared the BJP would produced its "best ever showing" in the southern states, riding largely on the Prime Minister's popularity.

"This time, from the south I feel it will be our best ever showing. Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana... and Karnataka... in these states we will have a strong result. For the first time in South India, Prime Minister Modi's popularity has grown so that we can get votes and seats."

READ | In Karnataka, BJP vs BJP Could Derail 'Mission South' Plan

He pointed to increased vote share between the 2014 and 2019 as another sign that the BJP's reach in South India. That increased share, however, was not in evidence across the southern states.

In 2014 the BJP polled 5.5 per cent of the votes in Tamil Nadu. This fell to less than 3.7 in 2019. In Kerala it was the opposite; the BJP got around 10 per cent in 2014 and 12.93 per cent five years later.

Similarly, in Andhra Pradesh the vote share fell 7.54 per cent between 2014 and 2019, while in Telangana this jumped by over 10 per cent. In Karnataka this increased by 8.38 per cent.

Congress On BJP's 'Mission South'

Telangana Chief Minister Revanth Reddy has cast doubt over the BJP's big 'Mission South' claim, telling NDTV he expects the party to win fewer than 15 seats from the region. "Across the south there are 130 seats... BJP is going to get hardly 12-15. The rest will go with INDIA," Mr Reddy said.

NDTV Exclusive | How Many Lok Sabha Seats Will BJP Win In South India?

Of the southern states, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka have finished voting. Andhra Pradesh and Telangana will vote on Monday. All results will be declared on June 4.

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