BJP hopes to repeat Tripura win in Andhra Pradesh but regional players make it mission impossible for saffron party

The BJP hopes to repeat its Tripura win in Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections. The party is likely to appoint Ram Madhav, the architect of BJP's success in the North East, as party in-charge for the state. This gives credence to BJP's ambitious project Andhra. However, the political landscape and the correlation of forces in Andhra Pradesh are dissimilar to Tripura, making it a mission impossible for the saffron party at least in 2019. The battle cry is essentially aimed at weakening the friend-turned-foe, Chandrababu Naidu. However, there is always the possibility that the move can even boomerang to split Opposition vote in favour of TDP.

The BJP's spectacular success in the tiny state of Tripura has certainly enthused the party cadre across India; more so because Tripura was ideologically alien to BJP. That the party which got little over one percent vote share in the last Assembly elections could win the state this time, makes it a spectacular feat. But can any party repeat a mandate in an altogether different context? A few weeks after the remarkable win in North East, the party lost crucial by-elections in its stronghold of Uttar Pradesh.

 BJP hopes to repeat Tripura win in Andhra Pradesh but regional players make it mission impossible for saffron party

Representational image. Reuters

Meanwhile in Andhra Pradesh, the state BJP was in fact sulking over its alliance with TDP. A section has been firmly voicing the concern that alliance with TDP proved to be an impediment in the way of BJP independently growing in the state. The state unit leaders even feel that they were asked to sacrifice for the national party's strategic interests.

The BJP's success in Tripura has several factors. The state has been under the Left rule for a long time — an uninterrupted rule for over two decades and almost a four decade spell if you rule out five years of Congress rule in between. This meant that generations of voters, especially the new and young voters, were unfamiliar with any other party's rule. Thus, anti-incumbency was bound to exist. If not, at least an urge for change was obvious. Thus, the BJP's slogan of 'Chalo Paltai' could catch people's imagination.

But this is not the case with Andhra Pradesh. The TDP came to power only in 2014 after sitting in Opposition for a decade in the united Andhra Pradesh. The people of the state still have hopes from Chandrababu Naidu. Besides, the truncated state has its own set of problems giving Naidu an additional advantage to convince the electorate that he alone could deliver things for them given his vast political administration experience in the state. Moreover, the anti-bifurcation narrative assiduously promoted by Naidu still holds sway on the state electorate.

Tripura had 48 percent anti-Left vote even in 2013 when the CPM-led Left Front swept the polls. But then the Congress was the only principal anti-CPM political force in the state and it failed to seriously take on the Left juggernaut. The party was no match to CPM's organisational strength and propaganda machine. Besides, the Congress was desperate for the Left support at the national level, which forced it to play a feeble opponent at the state level.

The BJP has exploited this weakness and limitation of the Congress and galvanised the anti-Left voters. This is evident from the fact that the Congress which had significant vote share all these years was completely wiped out in the recent Assembly elections.

On the contrary, the YSR Congress lost the elections of 2014 by a slender margin in Andhra and has remained a spirited Opponent of ruling TDP. The Opposition YSR Congress is engaged in no holds barred fight with the ruling TDP leaving no space for a new force to capitalise on any anti-incumbency, if at all it exists.
Besides, the political scene in Andhra Pradesh is already crowded with the presence of Congress, Jana Sena, and the Left — despite their limited strength — preventing an anti-TDP vote consolidation.

The BJP's successes in North East have come in the backdrop of hard work and dedicated effort by the activists of Sangh parivar for decades. The BJP could only derive political capital from the grassroots work of RSS. Such a Sangh activity is not there in Andhra Pradesh though it has been making significant effort to penetrate this crucial south Indian state ever since NDA came to power both in the state and at the Centre.

Tripura is a remote state with limited revenue and resource base. The Left government constrained by this limitation could not meet the expectations of voters. While the government has the fiscal limitation, the party's ideological predilections made it difficult for the state government to invite private capital to realise the developmental aspirations. But, Andhra Pradesh despite bifurcation blues, is a relatively strong economy. Naidu government has no such reservations as the Left had.

The BJP arrived at an electoral understanding with Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT) despite no ideological commonalities with the tribal outfit that calls for a separate state of Tipraland. The outfit joined hands with the BJP for its traditional rivalry with the CPM.

But, owing to the special status discourse, the BJP finds it extremely difficult to find any pre-election allies in Andhra Pradesh.

It is wrong to conclude that TDP scripted mandate in 2014 only due to its alliance with the BJP. In fact, the TDP won even in the local bodies elections much before the party arrived at an understanding with BJP and Pawan Kalyan's Jan Sena. Yet, this does not mean BJP had no role in Chandrababu Naidu's victory in 2014.

The possibility of the active presence of BJP in the Opposition camp dividing the anti-government vote and ultimately benefitting the TDP cannot also be ruled out. In fact, the Tripura or Assam BJP never said that they would repeat Gujarat in those states. The party has invented home grown solutions and native political idiom to come to power in these northeastern states. But Andhra Pradesh BJP, failing to innovate state specific political solutions, is relying on models that worked in different political contexts.

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Updated Date: Mar 26, 2018 17:52:22 IST