The frequent visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to poll-bound Karnataka have boosted the confidence of senior BJP leaders in the state.
With elections less than six weeks away, state leaders of the BJP expect more visits from Modi to turn the mood in the party’s favour and offset anti-incumbency at the local level.
The BJP in Karnataka believes its approval among voters and spirits among cadres is rising with the frequent visits and public addresses of the party’s central leadership — Modi, the party’s national president JP Nadda, and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
The Frequent Arrival Quotient
Since January 2023, Modi has visited Karnataka seven times. In the same period, Shah visited Karnataka eight times and Nadda 10 times.
The other national party in Karnataka, the Congress, is being driven by local leaders DK Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah on the election campaign front.
Meanwhile, the BJP is heavily dependent on its central leadership, so much so that Modi is the face of its campaign.
With no chief-ministerial face and former chief minister Lingayat strongman BS Yediyurappa announcing that he would not contest the polls, the BJP is looking at the prime minister as its biggest vote-catcher.
Modi has toured most of the regions, except the BJP’s bastion of coastal Karnataka, since January.
He visited Bengaluru, Tumakuru, Belagavi, Shivamogga, Hubballi, Yadgiri, Mandya, Chikkaballapur, Davanagere, and Kalaburagi.
During his visits to Karnataka, he laid the foundation stones of and inaugurated projects estimated to be worth ₹40,000 crore.
Meanwhile, the state government has spent over ₹50 crore — including around ₹32 crore for an event in Bengaluru and nearly ₹14 crore for an event in Belagavi — since November last year on Modi’s visits.
Shah visited Mandya, Belagavi, Hubballi, Udupi, Bidar, Raichur, Bengaluru, and other cities in the last three months.
Nadda visited Chamarajanagar, Koppal, Bengaluru, Tumakuru, Davanagere, Udupi, Chikkamagaluru, Hassan, and Vijayapura in the same period.
Visits doubled confidence: BJP leaders
Amidst corruption charges, including the recent arrest of BJP MLA Virupakshappa Madal in a graft case, senior leaders of the party have claimed that the frequent visits of Modi, Shah, and Nadda “doubled the confidence” of the cadre in Karnataka, where Assembly elections are due on 10 May.
Opposition parties like the Congress and the JD(S) have repeatedly mocked Modi’s frequent visits to Karnataka as an “election gimmick”, but the BJP is unfazed.
Karnataka’s Minister for Major and Medium Irrigation Govind Karjol told South First: “Modi, Shah, and Nadda are our leaders. The frequent visits of these three leaders have helped the party to a great extent, mainly in terms of consolidating votes ahead of the Assembly polls.”
He added: “The frequent visit made an impact not only on the voters but also on the leaders and party workers. The confidence has doubled among the leaders when compared to the last six months.”
He further said: “Their visits were not just confined only to public rallies — the leaders also discussed in detail about the political strategy, performance of the incumbent MLAs, poll campaigning and survey reports, and how to win the hearts of the voters in weak areas with the state leaders.”
Countering corruption with development
An internal survey of the BJP recommended dozens of rallies by the party’s central leadership ahead of the Karnataka Assembly polls.
With every visit of the prime minister, the BJP hopes to counter the “corruption” narrative with a “development” mantra.
BJP state vice-president and MLC Laxman Savadi told South First: “The prime minister has a great following in all parts of Karnataka. He understands the pulse of the people. This will definitely make an impact in the elections, which will turn in favour of the party.”
“He has laid the foundation to the projects worth thousands of crores in this state alone. His mantra is development and he has delivered it. Even the visits of Shah and Nadda have strengthened the party at the grassroots. BJP will come back to power by crushing the Opposition in this election,” added Savadi.
BJP leadership ignores state government achievements
The Central leadership-focused campaign of BJP in Karnataka has been conspicuous.
Political commentators point out that the BJP’s central leadership has hardly highlighted the achievements of the state government or promoted the state leaders during their visit to poll-bound Karnataka.
Political Analyst Prof Sandeep Shastri, who is also national coordinator of Lokniti Network, told South First: “The fact is that BJP’s central leadership is spearheading the poll campaigning in Karnataka. This indicated that the focus is more on central leaders than the state leaders.”
“The central leadership is hardly talking about the state leadership in the rallies. Their campaign leader is former chief minister Yediyurappa. It is important to understand that Yediyurappa’s position is totally different when compared to the last elections.”
“In this poll, he has opted out from contesting. He is being promoted only to woo voters. Why no talk about the state leadership?” wondered Shastri.
On whether the frequent visit of BJP’s central leadership will improve the prospects of the party in the run-up to the elections, Shastri said: “Even in this case, the party’s central leadership is focusing more on the achievements of the Union government than the state government.”
“It is very clear that the BJP government is facing anti-incumbency in the state. They are not emphasising the achievements of the state government.”
“The focus is only on the works of the central government, why not about the state government? They frequently talk about the double engine government. Where is the other engine? The other engine (referring to the state government) is only following the central leadership,” opined Shastri.
South First had previously reported on how the central leadership of the BJP was consciously attempting to distance itself from the incumbent government so as to offset anti-incumbency and pitch itself as the alternative to the current dispensation.