If the exit polls haven’t been able to give a clear picture, the counting of votes in 222 of 224 constituencies in Karnataka will surely tell if the Congress has managed to buck the trend of incumbents being voted out of power since 1985 or if the BJP will form its 22nd state government. The results will also have a bearing on the JD(S), and it remains to be seen if the kingmaker tag sticks to the Deve Gowda-led party or it sinks into oblivion.
A day after a record 72.13 per cent of 5.06-crore electorate voted, both Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and BJP leader Yeddyurappa claimed their parties would garner more than 120 seats, while the JD(S) has decided to take a wait-and-watch approach. Polling was held in 222 segments as elections in two constituencies was countermanded and will be held on May 28 — in Jayanagara, following the death of BJP candidate and sitting MLA B N Vijaykumar and in Rajrajeshwari Nagar, where about 10,000 voter cards were recovered from a flat.
Six out of eight major exit polls and one regional channel predicted that the BJP would get the largest number of seats in the new assembly. Seven polls predicted a hung assembly, with neither the BJP nor the Congress getting to the simple majority mark of 112 seats. All these polls suggested that the JD(S) would be kingmaker, with the party predicted to get between 20 and 40 seats.
Of the total assembly segments, 36 are reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and 15 for the Scheduled Tribes (STs) across the southern state. While the BJP has projected Yeddyurappa as its chief ministerial face, Congress has stopped short of naming Siddaramaiah as its next CM. While the Kuruba leader has made it clear that this would be his last elections, he caused a flutter on Sunday, saying that he had no qualms if a Dalit was made the CM if Congress came back to power.
Banking on its traditional bastions – Coastal Karnataka, central (Malnad) and northwest areas, BJP is confident of winning on the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Yeddyurappa, who belongs to the powerful Lingayat community. It remains to be seen if Siddaramaiah’s recommendation to consider Lingayats as a separate religion causes a split in the votes.
The ruling Congress, which has strong presence in the northern and southern regions, is betting on its five-year stable government, several welfare schemes for the poor, especially the Bhagya schemes, and the consolidation of AHINDA (the Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits) votes to retain power.