Opposition creating North-South divide to take on BJP

A great deal of analytical focus has been on possible opposition unity to take on the Bharatiya Janata electorally in the north. But barring Uttar Pradesh, where the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party are prominent players in the anti-BJP formation, nearly all of north India will see a direct contest between the Congress and the BJP.

It will make little difference to the prospects of either, whether the likes of Trinamool Congress or the rest of the regional opposition combines to contest against the ruling party at the Centre. The case in the south is more interesting. While in north India, opposition unity is to stop the BJP juggernaut, the southern unity is aimed at nipping the BJP challenge in the bud.

The BJP is yet to make a mark in that region, though it has been gaining traction among the people in States such as Kerala and is formidable in Karnataka. It appears that the southern opposition leaders have decided to play the north versus south card to tackle the BJP. Kamal Haasan wants a Dravida unity, since he believes that southern States share a common Dravidian legacy. Those like MK Stalin of the DMK have floated the theory that the southern States must unite to take on the Centre.

The idea is to paint the BJP as anti-south. The Congress’s Karnataka Government has declared a State flag to demonstrate the State’s unique nature. Now, some southern leaders opposed to the BJP have begun to raise the 15th Finance Commission’s possible move to use the population index for resource allocation, saying that this would be yet another instance of the Centre penalising the south, because its low population ratio would make it the loser as compared to heavily populated States of north India.

The south versus north narrative is dangerous, and regional parties would do well to not arouse sentiments based on such parochial considerations. Seeking electoral victories in one thing; creating an artificial divide is another. Perhaps these parties are enthusiastic about seizing the initiative after the fall-out between the BJP and the Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh. In that State too, the YSR Congress is playing the regional card and asking the TDP to join hands with it in opposing the BJP and demanding special category status for the State. This regional grouping in the south is not a good sign for the BJP though, since the party needs allies to expand its footprints there. Barring in Karnataka, where it is directly pitted against the Congress — and the Janata Dal (Secular) to an extent — it cannot do with partners.