BJP continues to be a North-driven party

Cartoon by Sajith Kumar

The exit poll results, if they are a true reflection of what will emerge on May 23, serve to underline that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s heart lies in the Hindi heartland, whose voters have stayed true to it, and to Narendra Modi, through thick and thin.

They also show that the party’s voice continues to fade away south of the Vindhyas, with the exception of Karnataka, where they have a fractious ruling coalition partly to thank for their performance.

Also read: Exit Polls Live | NDA may score 280-300 seats

Modi’s oratory and his ability to connect with a Hindi-speaking audience is a trump card for the party, and it is little wonder that he was the only face of the campaign. In the Hindi states in particular, Modi seems to have succeeded in selling the ‘majboot vs majboor’ narrative, especially in the light of Pulwama and Balakot, which the BJP used to drum up nationalistic fervour.

Modi cannot speak any south Indian language, and if there was any Tamil or Telugu equivalent of ‘Modi hai to Mumkin hai’ or ‘Phir ek baar Modi sarkar’ or ‘majboot vs majboor’, it did not take hold.

In the south, the BJP has had to contend with very strong regional parties in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and appears to have come a cropper. In Kerala, despite the opportunity to polarise around the Sabarimala issue, it doesn’t seem to be making any real impact.

The possible turning of the tide in West Bengal, in particular, is something very significant, a kind of tectonic shift in Indian politics but also underlines the fact wherever there is a strong regional leader like Mamata Banerjee, a BJP sweep is not happening. So is the case with Odisha, where despite BJP’s gains, Naveen Patnaik has managed to save his BJD in a fairly large number of constituencies.

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