Karnataka seems to be the safest bet for the party in this region
The south is not known for its support to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). With the BJP defeated in Karnataka only recently, the region appears set to live up to that reputation. 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 (the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam – 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 except 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 Andhra Pradesh 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 Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is no longer in alliance with the Congress and voters have not seen that step by the DMK as a serious issue. The Hindu-CNN-IBN Election Tracker Survey conducted by Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi shows that four of every 10 respondents believe that the DMK walking out of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was a political drama. A fourth 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 J. Jayalalithaa, who most people say has provided a better government than Karunanidhi. But it is still early days. Alliances between parties have yet to be worked out and the role of several other smaller regional parties will be crucial to the 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 election.
In A.P., Congress in trouble
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 Jaganmohan Reddy factor appear to be the important drivers of political trends in the State. In Telangana, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (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 per cent 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 out 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 Pradesh to stay united take a similar stand. The YSR Congress, led by Jaganmohan 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 Jaganmohan Reddy among traditional Congress supporters is evident in the fact that four out of every 10 feel he is innocent and being falsely implicated. The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) seems to be squeezed out of the race by the presence of the YSR Congress especially in Rayalaseema and also in coastal Andhra.
Consolidation in Karnataka
Karnataka alone seems to have some good news for the Congress. The “honeymoon” effect is transparently visible with the new State government being in power for less than three months. The non-dominant Other Backward Classes (OBC) and minority votes seem to be clearly consolidating in favour of the Congress with a split across parties of the dominant Lingayat and Vokkaliga votes. The 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 Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) in the Mumbai-Karnataka region. However, the split of votes between the BJP-KJP would work to the Congress’s advantage. The Janata Dal (Secular) — 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 focused more on Assembly elections than the Lok Sabha polls which again could work to the Congress’s advantage.
On the backfoot in Kerala
In Kerala, the Congress-led United Democratic Front government seems to be on the back foot and has lost some support. Trends in the survey show that if the Lok Sabha election was 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 Jaganmohan 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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