In the aftermath of the recently concluded state assembly elections in the country’s five states, there is a renewed effort to exacerbate the North-South divide and give it a prolonged existence. This divisive rhetoric can be seen as an extension of narratives such as Aryans vs Dravidians, dark skin vs fair skin, and Hindi vs non-Hindi, or simply put, a manipulation of historical narratives.
One might say that serving new wine in old bottles is another political conspiracy to entice, mislead, deceive, and divide the public. Notably, on December 3, during the announcement of election results, Congress leader Praveen Chakravarti posted, “The North-South border is becoming thicker and clearer,” while Karti Chidambaram posted only two words, “The South.” Both were reacting to Congress’ victory in Telangana and expressing their dissatisfaction with losses in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.
Their statements aimed to convey that voters in the North cast their votes based on caste and religious polarisation, whereas voters in the South are more informed, progressive, and mature. It seemed as if they were implying that North Indian voters are not capable of understanding the progressive thinking of leaders like Rahul Gandhi. They seemed to suggest that such voters do not deserve leaders like him; it was almost as if they were asserting that Rahul Gandhi’s leadership is beyond the comprehension of North Indian voters.
This sentiment was further reinforced when DMK MP DNV Senthil Kumar stated in the Lok Sabha, “People of this country should think that the strength of the BJP is limited to winning the Hindi belt, which we commonly refer to as the Gaumutra states.” He went on to say, “You (BJP) cannot penetrate South India because we are strong in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka.” The statement made by the newly appointed Chief Minister of Telangana, Revanth Reddy, comparing his DNA with that of a Bihari DNA and claiming superiority, reflects an insidious intent to create division between the North and the South.
It is noteworthy that such statements, one after another, are not arbitrary, casual, or mere expressions thrown into the air. Instead, they are calculated moves with electoral gains and losses in mind. Behind the scenes of such statements lies the politics of strategy. It is an irony that the voice and style of the party which has the most authority on the heritage of the freedom movement and is known throughout the country, today seems like that of the regional parties! It is really disappointing to see that the Congress which once talked about integration and boasted of unity and integrity, today sometimes sees its future in religious appeasement and sometimes in the rise of caste and regional identities.
All regional parties, including the Congress, must remember that the essence of this country lies in connecting and uniting. Within the apparent divisions, there is an undercurrent of cultural unity. Perhaps, if there was even a partial truth in the prevailing regional biases, wouldn’t the avatars and characters born in the North find equal popularity and reverence in the South, and vice versa? Is it not true that the great saint (Maharshies) like Kanva, Agastya, Madhvaacharya, Ramanujacharya, Vallabhacharya, Shankaracharya, etc., were among the foremost authorities, philosophers, and thinkers of Vedic culture, widely accepted and revered throughout history? Not only in ancient times but also in the present, there are numerous proponents, interpreters, centers of faith, and symbolic places contributing to cultural unity, and enjoying national acceptance. Considering the widespread acceptance and appeal of Spiritual Gurus like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev, Mata Amritanandamayi, Swami Chinmayananda, can anyone doubt their recognition and extensive influence across India?
Does anyone question the wide acceptance and appeal of information, technology, and transportation, reducing distances between nations and bringing the concept of global village closer to reality? Is it not necessary to highlight that today’s youth across the country share similar sentiments, aspirations, dreams, and inspiration? They aspire to go beyond the confined boundaries and limitations of North-South and actively participate in the nation’s reconstruction and development in a constructive and meaningful role.
The BJP, through cultural programs like Kashi-Tamil Sangam, Saurashtra-Tamil Sangam, and its various policies and schemes, envisions a developed India that is capable, empowered, self-reliant, and aspires to present a comprehensive, inclusive, and shining image of India, even projecting the vision for the future India (by 2047). In contrast, the Congress, relying on divisive issues such as OBC reservations, caste-based census, North-South divisions, and narratives, is still trying to garner votes. Instead of disregarding public opinion or questioning the understanding of voters, all political parties including Congress will have to think that today’s India will rise above gender, caste, language, region, religion etc. and keep pace with the developed world.
The question is also important whether BJP’s support base is really negligible in the South or is it shrinking? The figures indicate that the BJP is emerging as a political force in the South. In the 2018 Telangana Legislative Assembly elections, it secured approximately 14 per cent of the vote, an increase from 6.98 per cent in the previous elections, and the number of seats rose from 1 to 8. Those who limit the BJP’s influence only to the northern regions should not forget that in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it won on 25 out of 28 seats in Karnataka. Looking ahead to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, dismissing the BJP in Karnataka and Telangana outright would be overlooking ground realities. Prime Minister Modi’s popularity is consistent in both states.
In Tamil Nadu, after the elevation of K. Annamalai as the state leader, the BJP has successfully established an active presence. He is a popular and credible face there, and his and the BJP’s activities are being closely monitored in the state’s politics. It is important to note that in the past two assembly elections, Congress has been out of power in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu has been distant from power since 1971. Can it be concluded based on this that the voters in these states have a conservative and backward mindset? Political pundits and leaders who create the discourse of the North-South divide and analyse victory and defeat on its basis should also take a look at the election results after the Emergency, which was established as a dark chapter in India’s democratic journey.
It is noteworthy that in the general elections held after the Emergency, Congress won 154 parliamentary seats, out of which 89 seats were from the southern states. Does this imply that the voters in the South supported the Emergency, or was the Emergency not a dark chapter but a golden chapter in Indian democracy? Undoubtedly, such an analysis or conclusion will be incomplete, biased, and prejudiced. Whether Congress and its followers accept or not, the truth is that divisive thinking and politics will harm not just the North-South but the entire country in the end.