Early leads show Karnataka heading for hung Assembly, but Congress has opened crucial dialogues with JD(S)
Going by the script of the exit polls, Karnataka is heading for a hung Assembly with the race to the top getting extremely tight between the Congress and the BJP. The JD(S) is holding in the Old Mysuru belt and may emerge as a kingmaker.
At 9 am, the leads stood at BJP 85, Congress 79, JDS) 25. Already the Congress has given hints that the party is ready to sacrifice Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in order to break bread with the JD(S). However, the JD(S) sources say that the chief ministerial post is non-negotiable and it would be HD Kumaraswamy who would be the king.
In Chamundeswari constituency, chief minister Siddaramaiah is trailing by 12,000 votes. DK Shivakumar and RV Deshpande are leading.
While the fight between the BJP and Congress is getting sharp, the JD(S) seems to be plateauing.
Counting for the high-stakes Karnataka election began at 8 am amidst tight security. Early in the morning, an unusual Rahul Gandhi held an emergency meeting in Delhi ready to make the first strike in case there is a hung Assembly. BJP leaders were seen rushing to temples hoping for a favourable result even as the RSS think tank has sharpened its plan to wrest power in the crucial southern state.
The Congress has already opened backdoor dialogue with the JD(S) and that the fine points are being discussed. Senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashok Gehlot have already started talks with JD(S) leaders, according to sources.
The BJP is yet to open formal dialogue with the JD(S) though the lines are open.
Early leads will start flowing in by 10 am while a consolidated picture based on strong leads would emerge by 12 noon.
Though a state election, the results will have an over-bearing on the national scenario with the fate of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan for 2019 general elections and Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s leadership at stake.
Karnataka notched a record turnout of 72.13 percent voter turnout to the 222 Assembly seats with polling being healthy in rural outbacks. Most Exit Polls have predicted a hung assembly with the JD(S) likely to play a key role in government formation. Other Exit Polls have predicted a lead either for the Congress or the BJP.
Four chief ministerial candidates have emerged post polls – Siddaramaiah and Mallikarjuna Kharge of the Congress, Yeddyurappa of the BJP and HD Kumaraswamy of the JD(S). Dark horses are dime a dozen.
But there are some ominous signs for the Congress with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah stating clearly that it is the MLAs who would decide on the chief ministerial candidate. This is to be seen against the backdrop if the Congress trying to para-drop Kharge to the Vidhana Soudha. Siddaramaiah is not going to give up his claims to the top seat despite being hated by the Gowda clan who would love to see his back. Analysts say that Siddaramaiah has many supporting MLAs and if push comes to shove, he may play the bad boy and split the party.
Karnataka results will be a forerunner to the Assembly polls in BJP ruled states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh later this year and the Lok Sabha polls in 2019. If the Congress manages to bag Karnataka, it will boost the party’s morale after having given the BJP a bloody nose in the Gujarat elections. It will also strengthen Rahul Gandhi’s claim to be the leader of an opposition alliance ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
For BJP, a win will be seen as a big approval of Modi’s plans and policies. It will also be a comeback for B S Yeddyurappa, BJP’s mascot in the state and a former CM whose term was clouded by graft charges.
What needs flagging here is that no government in Karnataka has returned to office since 1985. Secondly, Karnataka was the first state where the BJP was able to hoist its flag.
Will history be rewritten or repeated? Wait for a few interesting hours ahead.