As the campaigning for the May 5 assembly polls in Karnataka drew to close on Friday, the Congress remained confident of capturing power on its own after a gap of 14 years. The Janata Dal (Secular) too is hoping for a repeat of the 2004 results, which will put the party back in its role as kingmaker.
The BJP -- reconciled to losing due to anti-incumbency factors following BS Yeddyurappa's exit - wants a hung house, which would force the Congress to look for alliance partners.
But for a last-minute 'blitzkrieg' style campaign by Gujarat strongman Narendra Modi, the BJP's chances of winning seats would have been bleakers, admit party leaders. In many places, BJP candidates hurriedly put up posters of Modi only after his April 28 rally in Bengaluru.
Though initially thrown by Modi's attack, the Congress recovered to micro-manage its campaign. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi addressed rallies in what were once the BJP strongholds, trying to rebutt Modi's charges.
Though the battle for Karnataka was not exactly Modi versus Rahul, the Congress vice president addressed nine rallies as compared to Modi's two. Sonia addressed four meetings and Prime Minister addressed one. In the face of Modi's cry to "finish Congress", Gandhi called for change, pledging that "Congress leaders will be accountable, if voted to power".
Congress leaders dismissed the talk of the party being unable to get enough numbers on its own. "People of Karnataka are going to give a decisive mandate for the Congress…," AICC secretary Sanjay Nirupam, who was in-charge of the Mumbai-Karnataka region.
He added that the people would vote for the Congress to avoid a "kichdi sarkar."
AICC general secretary Madhusudan Mistry said the party's main opponents were the BJP in north and coastal Karnataka and the JD(S) in the Mandaya, Mysore and Hassan belt.
JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy said he did not see the Congress winning enough numbers and saw his party getting the mandate because it addressed rural issues. "Anyway, what face has the Congress to talk of corruption?"