Telangana State BJP President Bandi Sanjay Kumar, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy along with other leaders celebrate the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation election results in Hyderabad. (PTI)
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s most remarkable transformation in this decade has been from being seen as a fundamentally upper-caste and north Indian party to a political force which is far more inclusive, both in terms of its social base and its geographical reach. The party has, in election after election, now shown that it commands the support of a substantial segment of Other Backward Classes, Dalits and tribals. But what is less commented upon is its geographical expansion.
Between 2014 and 2019, besides holding on to its base in north and west India, the BJP’s key objective was to expand in the east. Indeed, the fact that the party is either in government on its own or with an ally in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Manipur, Meghalaya, and Nagaland, and its emergence as the leading Opposition in Odisha only confirms this trend. This remains a work-in-progress though, for its real ambition in the east is the throne in Kolkata in 2021.
But alongside, the BJP’s focus has also shifted south. In Karnataka, it has been a key player for close to two decades now. In Kerala, it has invested energy but has got limited dividends so far. In Tamil Nadu, it has to rely on an ally and has not been able to break out of its image of a north Indian, Hindi-speaking, Brahmanical party. But it is in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh that the party will make a real push over the next few years. Together, the two states have 42 parliamentarians in the Lok Sabha; the BJP currently has four of these seats. But if the Hyderabad local elections, and the BJP’s own past record is any indication, expect this to spike in 2024. Critics will make a mistake if they continue to see the BJP through a limited prism of the past.