A year ago, in the run-up to the Karnataka Assembly Elections, the BJP, in a late switch, decided to increase the number of rallies addressed by Prime Minister Modi from 15 to 21. PM Modi's blitzkrieg run of addresses across the state was attended by lakhs of residents and was seen as the catalyst for the BJP improving its tally from 40 seats to 104 in the Karnataka Assembly.
Ultimately though, it was not enough to help the BJP form the government in the state. A year later in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, the saffron party is looking to repeat the trick and hope that their fortunes in the state improve.
On Monday, two rallies addressed by Modi in different parts of the state - in Mysuru and Chitradurga - drew large crowds with thousands chanting ‘Modi, Modi’ as he spoke on stage. This was a carbon copy of what was witnessed in the last phase of campaigning ahead of the 2018 Karnataka Assembly Elections.
"This has been the case since the rally held in Benegaluru's Palace Grounds in November 2013. Modi has become a household name and a big factor in Karnataka since then," Malavika Avinash, a BJP spokesperson said.
The rallies held in Chitradurga and Mysuru were the first two of seven public rallies Modi is scheduled to address in the state in ten days. The Prime Minister is scheduled to address rallies in Koppal on April 12, Mangaluru and Bengaluru on April 13. With Koppal, the BJP hopes to reach Raichur, Ballari and Haveri. This will be followed by two more rallies in northern Karnataka in Bagalkot and Chikkodi on April 18. Through these rallies, the BJP plans to target the Hyderabad-Karnataka and Mumbai-Karnataka regions, with the party hoping the Prime Minister’s presence in Bagalkot will have a ripple effect in areas such as Bijapur, and Hubli, while the Chikkodi campaign will cover Belgaum and Chikkodi.
The last two rallies coincide with the first phase of voting in the state's southern districts. He also addressed two rallies - in Hubballi on February 6 and in Gulbarga on March 10 - before the elections were announced.
Political observers in the state also believe that Modi's ground presence is crucial for the BJP in Karnataka. “In places, where Modi addresses rallies, there is a high possibility of 3-5% additional swing in favour of the BJP. Because even during the Assembly Elections, the BJP according to multiple estimates was touted to win 90 seats. But in the last few days, the rallies he addressed changed the BJP’s fortunes. The party ended up winning 104 seats, and there were at least 10 more seats the BJP missed by a whisker,” Mahadev Prakash, a political analyst explained.
In the run-up to the State Assembly Elections, the presence of Modi was credited as the catalyst in improving the BJP's tally in the state from 40 to 104. Modi extensively campaigned in the state addressing 21 rallies which was 6 more than the 15 BJP had initially planned for the Prime Minister.
Speaking at the rally in Chitradurga, Modi claimed that every vote for the BJP was a vote for him to serve the people again over the next five years. "When you go to the polling booth and press the lotus button to vote for the BJP that vote will be for me and make me stronger to work for the country," Modi said.
His statement comes at a time several BJP MP candidates in the state are building their election campaign on the achievements of the Modi-led central government. "We are proudly admitting that this election campaign is based on Modi and the larger interest of the country. The issues being highlighted are national security, reducing corruption and development of the country. We take a lot of pride in telling what Modi has done in five years in various rallies," Malavika added. The same was reiterated by Dakshina Kannada BJP candidate Nalin Kumar Kateel. "We are trying to take forward Narendra Modi’s development of India for the last five years and there is a need to protect the country at this time," he said speaking to TNM. He is among 15 MPs from the party seeking re-election from Karnataka.
The 'Modi effect' is a campaign motto echoed by BJP leaders across the state who are hopeful that the feat performed by the PM in 2018 is repeated in the Lok Sabha Elections and that the BJP is able to secure more than 20 of the 28 seats in the state. The venues of the rallies have also been decided to ensure that Modi has maximum outreach with voters in the state. It remains to be seen whether the presence of Modi will play a crucial role in convincing voters in the state in the face of the coalition's campaign to wrest a higher number of seats this year.