New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi yet again proved to be the star campaigner for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has emerged as the single largest party in the Karnataka after a gap of a decade.

After the results of assembly elections were announced on Tuesday, Modi tweeted thanking BJP supporters and workers in the state. “I thank my sisters and brothers of Karnataka for steadfastly supporting the BJP’s development agenda and making BJP the single largest party in the state," Modi tweeted.

Karnataka is the second state after Gujarat where Modi’s mass appeal has helped the BJP perform well in an assembly election. Modi began his campaign late but launched a blitzkrieg by holding public meetings in areas which are considered to be the stronghold of the BJP. He had initially held public meetings in Karnataka in March and, after a month’s lull, launched a series of public meetings on 1 May.

“Karnataka is an important state for the BJP because if the party is able to form the government, the BJP will enter south of the Vindhayas for the first time under the leadership of the Prime Minister. A good performance in the southern part of the country will help the BJP consolidate its voter base in the state," said a senior BJP leader from Bengaluru who helped plan the BJP’s election campaign.

With 17 public meetings spread across the state in a little over a week and use of technology to reach out to supporters and party workers through his NAMO mobile app, Modi managed to reach out to over two million people in Karnataka. This was the first time the BJP had used the app for campaigning in an assembly election.

“The Karnataka results indicate that the BJP victory in 2008, when it formed its first government, was not a fluke. The BJP has managed to improve its position and got 36.2% votes which is the highest for the party (in Karnataka)," the BJP leader quoted above said.

BJP leaders also argue that the performance of the party is a clear indicator that Congress attempts to divide the state on the basis of caste, religion, language and flag—a Modi accusation—were rejected by the electorate as Congress did not get a majority.

“The Congress had started a campaign to malign the BJP and divide the state. But the message of Narendra Modi that development should be the issue in the election and not caste or religion was preferred by the people," the BJP leader added.

The elections in Karnataka are important for the BJP because it is the only state in southern India where the BJP has been in power on its own. During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won 17 out of the 28 seats. Similarly, Karnataka accounted for a majority of the 21 Lok Sabha seats that the BJP won in five southern states in 2014.

Political analyst feel that while Modi’s campaign style and connect with the people are unique, the BJP lacked the local leadership which could have helped the party get a majority in the Karnataka elections.

“Narendra Modi’s campaign style is very effective and he has popular support. But it is an individual effort by him without much support from the local leadership of state party units. While he reaches out to the people, the state leadership does not have the same credibility as the Prime Minister," said Subrata Mukherjee, New Delhi-based political analyst and former political science professor at Delhi University.

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