With state Assembly elections due in less than a year from now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's two-day visit to Karnataka is being seen as a crucial component of the BJP's offensive to retain the key South Indian state.
Coming ahead of the general election in 2024, the Assembly polls next year are crucial for the BJP in Karnataka which sends 28 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
Karnataka is the only south Indian state where the party is a major player against the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular).
While the highlight of the Prime Minister's two-day visit is his participation in the International Yoga Day celebrations at Mysuru on Tuesday, on Monday he has a power-packed itinerary in the capital city Bengaluru.
During his whirlwind tour of the city when he lands here on Monday, the Prime Minister is scheduled to inaugurate several high profile projects, including the Centre for Brain Research at the Indian Institute of Science and the Bengaluru Suburban Railway project.
Modi's tour at this juncture comes as a shot in the arm for the BJP government in Karnataka headed by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai.
Over the past few months Karnataka under the BJP has witnessed growing communal polarisation. Fuelled by issues such as hijab, halal, love jihad, and masjid-mandir controversies, the state has had Hindi hardliners targeting the Muslim community on several counts. At the same time, the state government has been facing flak over attempts to rewrite school textbooks apart from the dismal state of roads and infrastructure in Bengaluru.
Ahead of the Assembly elections early next year, the BJP in Karnataka has to contend with former strongman Yediyurappa, who has been sulking after being replaced and sidelined. The party has to work extra hard to retain its Lingayat vote base, which solidly supported Yediyurappa. Although Bommai is also from the Lingayat community, the Modi endorsement will come in handy for the chief minister.
At another level, the Prime Minister's engagements in Bengaluru-Mysuru spread over two days are being seen as part of the BJP's outreach to the Vokkaligas, who dominate the region. They are traditionally known to support the Janata Dal (S) led by Deve Gowda, who also belongs to the community. The BJP has been unable to dominate the Old Mysore region for long and the recent support to saffron initiatives like the anti-hijab and love jihad narratives have gained traction in the region.
"The Prime Minister's visit to Karnataka for two days will establish the priority that he is giving to Karnataka. The development agenda and his participation in the Yoga Day celebrations in Mysuru will be received positively by the people of Karnataka," a senior party leader said on the condition of anonymity.
Karnataka has long been considered a gateway to the south for the BJP, and the party is leaving no stone unturned to return this key state in the Assembly elections next year, which will be a kind of semi-finals ahead of the general election in 2024.