July 23;The south is not known for its support to the BJP. With the BJP defeated in Karnataka only recently, the region appears set to live up to that reputation. But besides this common trend, the four states have somewhat different political stories to tell. Two states are ruled by the Congress (Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka), one has a Congress-led coalition government (Kerala) and one (Tamil Nadu) has a state based party (AIADMK) as its ruling party. In all the four states people are less satisfied with the Central government than their State governments. However, all the states save Karnataka (which had a new government coming to power two and a half months ago) see a decline in the satisfaction with the State government as compared to two years ago.
Both AP and Tamil Nadu pose a challenge to the Congress. In Tamil Nadu, political equations today are vastly different from what they were at the time of the 2009 Lok Sabha poll. The DMK is no longer in alliance with the Congress and voters have not seen that step by the DMK as a serious issue. The CNN-IBN-Hindu-CSDS poll shows that four of every 10 respondents believe that the DMK walking out of the UPA was a political drama. A quarter of traditional DMK voters too endorse this stand. Not surprisingly, its popularity too has dwindled and the AIADMK and the Congress are poised to benefit from this development. The ruling AIADMK seems to be gaining ground in Southern and North-Central Tamil Nadu whereas the Congress appears to be doing better in Upper-North and Western Tamil Nadu. The BJP vote share too registers an increase as compared to 2009. Overall, at the moment the wind is clearly blowing in favour of Jayalalithaa, who most people say has provided a better government than Karunanidhi. But it is still early. Alliances between parties are yet to be worked out and the role of several other smaller regional parties will be crucial to the final outcome in 2014. A lot will depend on alliance arithmetic and which and how many parties the AIADMK and the DMK tie up with in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections.
In Andhra Pradesh, which contributed immensely to the Congress’s national victory in 2009, the party is in big trouble. The popularity of both the Congress-led UPA at the Centre and the Congress government in the State is extremely low (the lowest for the party in South India). The agitation over Telangana and the Jagan Reddy factor appear to be the important drivers of political trends in the state. In Telangana, the TRS and the Congress are in a close battle and any (in)decision on the future of the region will have important political consequences. As many as 79 percent of the respondents in the Telangana region said they support the creation of a separate Telangana state, a figure that has gone up considerably since the last survey in 2009. What’s more, nine of every 10 Telangana supporters say that their stand on Telangana will affect their vote choice in the next Lok Sabha election. As compared to this only a little over one-third of those who want Andhra to stay united take a similar stand. The YSR Congress led by Jagan Mohan Reddy seems to be doing very well in the Rayalaseema region though its support is not as strong in Coastal Andhra Pradesh. The support for Jagan among traditional Congress supporters is evident in the fact that four out of every 10 feel he is innocent and being falsely implicated. The TDP seems to be squeezed out of the race by the presence of the YSR Congress especially in Rayalaseema and also in Coastal Andhra.
Karnataka alone seems to be providing some good news for the Congress. The `honey-moon` effect is transparently visible with the new state government being in power for less than three months. The non-dominant OBC and minority vote seems to be clearly consolidating in favour of the Congress with a split across parties of the vote of the dominant Lingayat and Vokkaliga votes. Congress seems to be consolidating its presence in coastal, central and southern Karnataka even as it retains support in the Hyderabad–Karnataka region. It faces some competition from the BJP and KJP in the Mumbai-Karnataka region. However, the split of votes between the BJP-KJP would work to the Congress’ advantage. The JD(S) continues to register a presence in Southern Karnataka and is giving a fight to the Congress in the Hyderabad- Karnataka region. Historically, the JD(S) has always focussed more on Assembly elections than the Lok Sabha polls which again could work to the Congress’s advantage.
In Kerala, the Congress-led United Front government seems to be on the back foot and has lost some support. Current trends as evidenced by the CNN-IBN-Hindu-CSDS poll show that if the Lok Sabha election were to be held in the state now, the two major alliances would more or less evenly share the seats.
Each state of the South provides a picture in contrast. In Tamil Nadu, the nature of the competition between the state-based parties would define and decide the choice in a Lok Sabha poll. In neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, the Telangana issue and the rise of Jagan Reddy’s YSR Congress will be of crucial significance. Karnataka seems to be the safest bet for the Congress in this region and Kerala is witnessing a stiff competition between the two alliances.
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