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Stressing that Modi would be the biggest factor for BJP in South India’s politics, Dr Jagdeesh Chandra stresses that PM Modi may be destined to bring about a stark change in the political landscape of South India, especially Tamil Nadu. Dr Chandra also reveals how Modi has become the architect of new BJP, why the philosophy of North-South divide has been going on for decades and how PM Modi could bring down that wall to win over the Southern regions, having won North, West and East India. Excerpts... (Part-1)

  • Do you think ‘Brand Modi’ will become a ‘super hit’ in South India as well? What does the term ‘Modi: The New Shining Sun of South’ entail?
    Dr Jagdeesh Chandra:
    This term gives only one message, Modi is the new star of South... Modi is the biggest factor for BJP in the South... Modi understands the dynamics of the politics of South India. And the most important aspect is that after Jayalalitha, Karunanidhi and MGR, there is a vacuum in South Indian politics. There is no big face in the Tamil Nadu politics as of today and destiny has handed the job of filling that vacuum in Narendra Modi’s hands. Hence, everyone is waiting as to who will fill that gap, and its answer is Narendra Modi because now the people are also excited. We saw in the roadshow recently how lakhs of people had gathered there. To me, it would not come as a surprise if people started saying that Modi has emerged as the face of Tamil Nadu. One more thing, there is another aspect to it. PM must feel that after unfurling the ‘Saffron flag’ in North, West, and East India, now only South remains to be won over and thus, he has to unfurl the ‘Bhagwa’ in South India. All said and done, today in Andhra, Kerala and other states, the BJP does not have a good electoral standing. So, that is a challenge before the Prime Minister. He has made up his mind that he has lead a nation and not just be a Prime Minister for the people and the BJP which he leads when its flag is unfurled in South, that would be the day, Modi would feel that he is not just the PM, rather a leader, who has won over the hearts of crores of people living across the length and breadth of the nation. This feeling is motivating Narendra Modi to move South, take up this responsibility, and become the face of the South.
  • People say that Modi is the architect of the new BJP. Do you agree with that statement?
    Correct. The BJP which is claiming to bring 370 seats this time in the Lok Sabha elections... the BJP that abrogated Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP that ensured the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, the BJP that has brought UCC in one state and the architect of this BJP is Narendra Modi and this BJP has become the largest political party in the world. So, we can say that Narendra Modi is the architect of the ‘21st-century BJP.’
  • What is this philosophy of ‘North-South divide,’ which has been going on for decades?
    Well, the history of this so-called divide is at least 50 years old and at max, it is about a century old. The basic issue in Southern states is the AntiBrahmin narrative i.e. ‘Anti-Sanatan’ and ‘AntiHindi language’ narrative has been peddled. As such, the birth of political parties in that part of the country has been on the ‘Anti-Brahmin’ or ‘AntiSanatan’ ideology. Thus, this opposition is quite old. An ‘Anti-Hindi’ agitation was carried out there in 1958 during which the Government of India made efforts to enforce ‘Hindi’ as a compulsory language across the entire nation, which was opposed vehemently by the people and several people died also in that agitation since it became violent. Even today, the people, who sacrificed their lives, are remembered in Tamil Nadu and programmes are organised on a particular day in their remembrance. Till the time this situation becomes better, nothing will happen on the grassroots level. The second reason for this divide was that in 1924, Dalits were stopped from walking on a path leading to a Temple in Travancore. So an agitation was organised and the then King ordered the use of force wherein, several people died. This is where Periyar comes into the picture. He took the reins of that agitation and slowly the agitation gathered momentum and gained in popularity too. In a nutshell, ‘Anti-Brahminism’ and ‘Anti-Hindi’ are the roots of this divide. So this is an old challenge and it remains to be seen how Narendra Modi tackles this problem. One legislator from Tamil Nadu went so far as to say that it is a curse to be born into a Brahmin family, and hence, this feeling of revenge, hate, and negativity towards Sanatan is the root of this divide.
  • There seems to be a wall between North and South when it comes to political thought. Will PM Modi be able to vanquish and break down this wall?
    Truth be told, it is an extremely difficult job to bring down that proverbial wall. But Modi is extremely lucky and it appears that the Almighty has entrusted this task to Modi, just as he entrusted the Ram Temple issue to him, to bring down this wall and unify the nation. The work to bring down this wall has started, but when will it be brought down, nothing can be said about it as it will take time. Moreover, Modi is not doing it for the present rather he is searching for possibilities in the future. Today lakhs of people listen to Modi and coupled with the Ram Temple factor, may bring about a surprising figure in BJP and Modi’s favour. As of today, BJP’s vote share in Tamil Nadu is 3.66 percent and if ‘Modi’s magic’ plays a part, then the vote percent could up to 10-12 percent also, and perhaps BJP may get 7-8 seats in the Assembly polls and as such, BJP is focussing on 7 seats. When it comes to game-changers, we can’t say much because Modi’s tactics could always spring a surprise, and BJP might end up securing even 15-16 seats in its kitty. Let’s see what finally comes out. Anyhow, the work to dismantle the wall has started and it is only a matter of time, we can debate on the speed at which it happens, but there is no debate left on the amount of work that has gone down to bring it down.
  • If that is the case, then what type of challenges may befall PM Modi in bringing down this ‘North-South’ divide? What is their plan to overcome those challenges?
    The biggest challenge before the Saffron party is the ‘Anti-Brahmin’ thought and sentiment prevalent among the people and how to bring about the change in that perception. Another major challenge is that BJP’s image is that of a Hindu majoritarian party, but the ‘Anti-Hindi’ and ‘Anti-Sanatan’ ideology is a major hurdle for the party. So, when you enter the political fray, you hit a major roadblock due to these prevalent narratives and these can only be countered through popularity among the public and that would be achieved only when people’s perception of the party changes. Talking about strategy or plan to overcome these challenges, the BJP has based its strategy on the Ram Temple since there are millennia-old cultural links between North and South and that is what they are looking to encash and revive so that the ‘Anti-Hindu’ and ‘Anti-Sanatan’ perception can be changed. So one is Ram Temple, which has brought about a connection between UP and Tamil Nadu due to Lord Ram. Secondly, they recently held a ‘Mahila Samagam,’ where two lakh women participated in Kerala where women interacted with PM Modi. BJP’s ‘women empowerment’ card is a strong suit and in terms of votes, there were about 91 crore voters out of which, about 44 crore were female voters and the turnout of women voters was more than male voters. Additionally, 10 crore Ujjawala beneficiaries, 27 crore Jan Dhan accounts, and the tenure of maternity leaves have been increased along with many other initiatives. So ‘women’s empowerment’ is a major part of BJPs’ strategy. There is the word of creating a Brahmin plus Dalit alliance to counter the narrative. When they forged such a narrative in 1999, the BJP then won one seat. Overall, controlling the ‘Anti-Hindu’ and ‘Anti-Sanatan’ sentiment, playing the ‘women empowerment’ card, raising issues of corruption against the State Government, and capitalising on the schemes of the Central Government are part of the broader strategy of the BJP to counter the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) narrative.
  • Don’t you think that this ‘North-South divide’ concept is against the basic concept of national integration?
    It is definitely against the concept of national integration because you can’t divide a nation into two parts. This is not like East and West Pakistan, which were separated by thousands of kilometres of distance. In our country, you take a flight and in the next two or three hours you reach Delhi or some other part of the nation. So, there can’t be two parts of the same nation or two different cultures in the same nation. Either today or tomorrow this wall has to be broken down. The other three parts of the nation seem to be progressing fine, but the South feels neglected without any valid reason. This division in thought, philosophy, and ideology must cease, as it goes against the concept of political integration of the nation. To be continued...

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