‘BJP is North-India Centred and Neglects South’: Historian Rajmohan Gandhi
The historian also said BJP found it difficult to make inroads in the south because of ‘preponderance of Brahmins and Hindi-speaking people’ in the RSS.
Historian and author, Rajmohan Gandhi spoke about the widening of the existing divide between North and South India at the launch of his latest book, Modern South India: A History from the 17th Century to our Times. According to Gandhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was not able to make much headway in the south because the party and its predecessors did not participate significantly in the social and political movements in the region.
Speaking to Indian Express, Gandhi admitted that although the BJP had “reasonable success” in Karnataka, its influence did not penetrate further. Elaborating on this, Gandhi said, “…nonetheless, the broad assessment that the BJP has had very limited success in the South is true. In the last 150 years, there have been some great movements in South India. There was a movement for social justice, a movement for democratic rights of princely states, a great movement for untouchability… In none of these movements the BJP or its predecessors have had any significant role. That is one large reason why the BJP did not have a good start in the south.”
According to Gandhi, the more numbers of Brahmin and Hindi-speaking people in the BJP’s ideological fount, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was also a block for the party down south.
Gandhi also pointed out that BJP lacked heft in terms of its party members from the south, who could help it to gain a wider foothold in the region. In addition, he added, this imbalance made it out as though the party was overlooking the south in favour of its bastions in the north. “The ideology of intolerance, of compulsion or coercion, that ideology is offensive to all parts of India and not only to the South. But, undoubtedly, it is spreading all across South that much of the BJP’s policies are North India-centred and neglects the South. Who are the influential southern political figures in Delhi?” said Gandhi.
“Venkaiah Naidu is from the South but does he represent a powerful, political force in Andhra Pradesh or Telangana? Not to my understanding. Nirmala Sitharaman is the country’s first woman defence minister, which is impressive, but she is not in Parliament or government due to her political strength. She has come from the Rajya Sabha,” Gandhi added.
Gandhi also stated there seemed to be a gap in the presence of bureaucrats hailing from the south in Delhi, which added to the lack of parity between representations of the two regions in the Indian polity. “Even among bureaucrats, there was a time when South Indian bureaucrats formed a large share in very influential positions. Now, the impression is that they do not have the same share. The impression has gained ground that South has lost the voice that it had in Delhi,” Gandhi observed in conclusion.