While many have been saying the national election results have been along expected lines, the Dravida Munnetra Kazahagam (DMK)-Congress sweep in Tamil Nadu has been no different. In fact, it was one of the easiest states to predict and the eventual outcome has held close to expectations (at the time of writing this column, the DMK alliance was leading in 23 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats that went to polls).

Tamil Nadu will remain an outpost of secularism and democratic values, irrespective of what happens in the rest of the country. Interestingly, though Tamil Nadu is one of the most urbanized states in India (after Gujarat), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has found almost no new backers even among urban voters. In most parts of the country, the BJP is the darling of the aspirational urban middle class. The south is the only exception. Nearly every major urban centre in the southern state has voted against the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)-BJP alliance.

I pin this on the state’s history of radical social justice movements, whose ideals are contradictory to many things that the BJP stands for. However, we will have to break up the results and see if the BJP has made any marginal gains in vote share. From the seat count, it does seem like the unique nature of Tamil Nadu politics will remain intact and continue to withstand the onslaught of the BJP. Even the urban voters grew up in a culture soaked in the discourse of social reform, pioneered by Periyar. So, it is not that easy to co-opt them into the Hindutva fold.

However, the secular pushback emanating from Tamil Nadu has to be strengthened further. Even the nature of the BJP alliance with AIADMK and how the post-Jayalalithaa party was made to look like a junior partner in the alliance was very shocking.

Other parties have a lot to learn from the DMK, which will function as a secular bulwark in the next Lok Sabha. They have even propped up the Left, which has won a few seats in Tamil Nadu—making the state at least a marginal outpost for the Left. The DMK’s opposition to the BJP since demonetization has been steady and sustained. The gains the Dravidian party has made in this election is a result of this resistance. The party also built a rainbow alliance of partners within the state to take on the BJP and this effort required a certain degree of give-and-take. This is what the third front should also have done at the national level. They should have put up a credible alternative with a common minimum programme.

In the new Lok Sabha, Tamil parties and politicians will have a good chance to prove themselves again. It will fall on them to play the role of a constructive opposition, which is an essential pillar of democracy.

One likely fallout of this opposition is that the state may suffer a bit when it comes to central scheme fund allocations. Many urban schemes also necessarily require the assistance of the central government.

But since the present AIADMK government, though shaky, may be made to survive for another two years until the next assembly elections, there should not be any serious problem in terms of centre-state relations at least till 2021. The BJP will be compelled to take along its alliance partner (AIADMK). So, there will be a period of respite before the state may begin to face concerns due to disagreements over revenue sharing or fund transfer.

Going forward, the BJP’s playbook seems to be to use existing caste fissures within the state, since the religion card does not seem to have a deep resonance. The alliance with the PMK, which is a Vanniyar (OBC) dominated caste-based party, is pointing in this direction.

But more than the distant worry of the BJP’s growth within the state, the immediate confusion and perplexity in the south seems to be about the BJP’s exemplary performance in northern India. There is an air of mystery about the reasons for a repeat of 2014. From the southern perspective, there are serious concerns regarding the course of governance—from employment generation to the nature of the goods and services tax (GST).

The thumping return of the government is inexplicable to many people in the south. Most people here are not able to understand what motivated north Indian voters. Clearly, the BJP’s 2014 promise of “less government, more governance" did not materialize. But they have still come back with a clear majority.

From the southern perspective, this is a negative trend. Governments which do not fulfil their promises should ideally not be voted back into office.

C.Lakshmanan is an associate professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies.