Though the BJP has not been able to make significant gains in the Telugu States, it remains to be seen how much longer that remains the case. The BJP failed to breach Telugu states and it still remains unconquered, but the question is why did the Telugu vote differently? And how long can it prolong this?
The future of the BJP in the South has the best possibility in Telangana. The party won four MP seats in the recent general elections, and their vote percentage also received a jump-start. Telangana has the required social character for the BJP-RSS to ground its polarised narrative.
It has a Muslim population close to 15%, concentrated in districts like Nizamabad, where the BJP defeated K. Kavitha, the daughter of chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao. Muslims are represented by a Muslim party under Asaduddin Owaisi’s leadership. His brother Akbaruddin Owaisi made fiery speeches against the Hindu gods and goddesses.
Socially, the Muslims of Telangana are not integrated, with a negligible middle class that declined after Telugu was declared the official language replacing Urdu. Muslims preferred madrasa education in Urdu over formal education in Telugu.
There is a chequered history of communal riots in the state and popular memory of atrocities by the Nizam’s private militia called Razakars, though supported by the Reddy landlords during the heydays of the Telangana armed struggle. The atrocities of the Razakars were more about protecting the privileges of the Nizam and Reddy landlords, but in popular memory, it is registered as Muslim atrocities against Hindu women.
With the decline of Left politics, withdrawal of the Maoists from the plains and depoliticisation of Dalit politics, I fathom it is a matter of time before the BJP will storm to power and expand its base in Telangana.
KCR did well to occupy the space of Hindu identity by performing yagnas and renovating religious places and temples. There is no wide-scale resentment as yet against the welfare policies for the Muslims, including Shaadi Mubarak, and building separate social welfare hostels for Muslim students. But with a jobless growth, restless youth, continued agrarian distress may change this.
The ascendant upper castes, gaining from the spread of the IT sector, find their class interests protected by the project of Hinduisation. Pending issues such as a temple sprouting attached to one of the pillars of the famous Charminar and long time social ghettoisation of Muslims provides an ideal mushrooming ground for the BJP-RSS brand of politics.
The TDP is facing a dead-end in Telangana, the social base it had with the OBCs is now shifting to the BJP. It has already become common place for youth to brandish trishuls and a saffron flag. The BJP was at the forefront of hijacking the issue of sub-division of reservations for the Scheduled Tribes, and creating the bogey of terrorism with the appointment of G. Kishan Reddy as minister of state for home.
KCR has bought time for himself by remaining close to the BJP and focused on disallowing space to the Congress. Telangana is likely to be the second stop for the saffron brigade in the South.
Similarly, the BJP could not open its account in Andhra Pradesh. The strategy of the BJP to discredit N. Chandrababu Naidu by not grating the special category status and occupy the space did not work. Though the TDP lost very badly, the focus on development and garnering more resources did not allow any space to the hyperbolic nationalism of the BJP.
Further, the Muslim population in Andhra Pradesh is less than 9%. They are spread out, without being concentrated in a few districts and are well integrated and speak fluent Telugu. The BJP-RSS are yet to find foothold to target the Muslims or raise the bogey of Hindu khatre mein hai. #KhabarLive