The Bharatiya Janata Party has emerged as the single-largest party in Karnataka but has fallen short of a clear majority till reports last came in.
Karnataka — the party’s ‘gateway to the South’ — is the only southern state the BJP has ruled before it ceded power to the Congress last term.
Leads put out by the Election Commission of India on the Karnataka Assembly results show BJP way ahead of the Congress with 104 seats to the incumbent party’s 78, while the JD(S) led in 37 seats.
It is understood that the Congress reached out to the JD(S) as soon as it became clear the BJP was short of a clear majority, agreeing to support it from outside. The JD(S) is happy to have that support, it is learnt.
Counting was on in 222 constituencies of the 224-seat Assembly since 8 am. Voting was not held in two seats. A party requires 112 seats to get a clean majority to form government.
Exit polls had predicted a tight race between the two main rivals — BJP and Congress — in the Karnataka Assembly elections with the JD(S) emerging as a likely kingmaker.
The Congress’ presence in the country has drastically shrunk since the BJP decisively won the general elections in 2014. Ever since, it has ousted the Congress in a dozen states, and now looks set to deal a crushing defeat to the incumbent party in one of its last bastions – Karnataka.
The Congress now rules only three states – Punjab, Mizoram and Puducherry.
With Karnataka, the BJP’s tally of states rises from 7 in 2014 to 22.
In the outgoing Assembly in Karnataka, Congress had 122 seats, the BJP and JD(S) 40 each and independents and smaller parties 22.
The Congress had hoped to get a second term in Karnataka by beating the general anti-incumbency streak in the state. No party has come back a second term in nearly 30 years. Unfortunately, the Congress fared poorly in all eight regions of the state.
The BJP, on the other hand, has improved vote and seat share since 2013. The Prime Minister’s decision to waive farm loans have gone down well with farmers as the party did well in the rural belt. It also came out trumps in the coastal belt, central and Mumbai Karnataka.
The JD(S) retained the Mysuru belt, and may become the king rather than the kingmaker if a deal with Congress comes through.