North-South Divide Has Ended In These Elections: Rajnath Singh To NDTV

In an exclusive interview, the defence minister also said the BJP is confident of attaining the target of 400 seats that it has set for the NDA.

Mr Singh said he has seen an unprecedented response while campaigning this time.

New Delhi:

Exuding confidence about the BJP doing well in the south, where it had managed to secure only 29 of 130 seats in the 2019 polls, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has said there won't be any state in the region where the party would not win at least a few seats in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP has never won a Lok Sabha seat in Kerala and had failed to open its account in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in 2019 despite winning 303 of the country's 543 constituencies and sweeping several states.

In an exclusive interview with NDTV, the senior BJP leader also said the perceived north-south divide in terms of how people in the regions vote has ended in these elections because the belief in Prime Minister Narendra Modi has strengthened across the country.

To a question on how the party would meet its target of winning 370 seats on its own and 400 for the NDA alliance given that it won 100% of the constituencies in places like Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi last time, Mr Singh said other states, especially those in the south would help them get to the figure.

"I don't think there will be any state in the south where the BJP will not win at least a few seats... In Uttar Pradesh, we had won 62 seats last time and we are confident of getting at least 75 seats... These numbers can vary by one or two," the minister said in Hindi.

Mr Singh asserted that the party not only has a presence in Tamil Nadu now but is also in a position to win a few seats there. 

"I have been campaigning during elections for a long time but the response I have seen in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh this time has been unprecedented. In Andhra Pradesh, I believe we should win nearly 20 out of 25 seats as part of the alliance with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP)," he claimed. 

The YSR Congress had won 22 out of the 25 seats in Andhra Pradesh in the last Lok Sabha elections and the remaining seats had gone to the TDP. The BJP is contesting the polls in an alliance with the party and Pawan Kalyan's Jana Sena Party this time around. 

Figure Dipping In Karnataka?

In 2019, the BJP's seats in the south had come from only two states - Karnataka, the only state in the region where it has consistently done well, and Telangana. It had bagged 25 out of 28 seats in Karnataka - while the Congress just won one - and four out of 17 in Telangana. 

Both Karnataka and Telangana have Congress governments now, and when Mr Singh was asked about surveys indicating that the party would win more seats in Karnataka than the BJP this time, he scoffed and said there is no question of that happening. 

"That can't even be imagined. Maybe there will be a difference of two or three seats but we cannot even imagine that our seats will be reduced so much and the Congress will overtake us. Our figure will increase in Telangana as well. It is after considering all of these things that I said the BJP is heading towards fulfilling its resolve of winning 400 seats," he asserted.

The defence minister also said the north-south divide will end after these elections.

"The opposition has been talking about this for a long time, but no one thinks that way anymore. This is because the belief in PM Modi has strengthened substantially among the general public. He has established a reputation, a credibility for himself in Indian politics. People believe he is a Prime Minister who says what he does, that there will be no difference between his words and deeds," Mr Singh said.

"And the way he has enhanced India's stature on the world stage has also made people feel a sense of pride," he added. 

The seventh and final phase of voting for the Lok Sabha elections will be held on Saturday. Counting will take place on June 4.