The BJP came a cropper in Karnataka as poll results began to trickle in, with the Congress heading for a simple majority and the saffron party down in the dumps with leads in just about 39 of 223 seats.
Supporters of Congress celebrate their victory, in the Karnataka Assembly elections, in front of party president, Sonia Gandhi, residence in New Delhi. (AFP)
Karnataka trends give Congress a reason to cheer after long, with the party likely to secure a simple majority with about 120 seats in the 223-member assembly, especially when it has become a recipient of brickbats over serial corruption accusations, with law minister Ashwani Kumar and railway minister Pawan Bansal under the scanner.
While Congress president Sonia Gandhi expressed happiness over the victory, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, "Karnataka win is a defeat of the BJP’s ideology."
The biggest game-changer proved to be BJP rebel BS Yeddyurappa’s Lingayat community, which seems to have split the vote – as the trends suggested - between Congress and Yeddyurappa’s Karnataka Janata Party to punish the BJP.
Trends at 2:30 pm suggested that just the split of votes between the BJP and KJP cost the saffron party 52 seats. This is apart from the eight seats the KJP was leading in. The loss of its moneybag leaders, the Reddy brothers, after a damning Lokayukta report also cost the BJP dearly.
The saffron party also lost to the Congress in urban seats, at a time when it was banking on an anti-Congress wave across the country around graft. Many see this as a reaction against a corrupt and infighting-ridden BJP government in the state.
The defeat makes the BJP a central, western and north Indian party yet again, with the only gateway to the south shut firmly for now.
It is bound to have a Lok Sabha impact too, as Karnataka gave the highest number of BJP MPs (19) in 2009.
Also, with Narendra Modi’s three rallies not helping the party do well, many outside the party and within will question his national credentials. Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said, "No one knows Narendra Modi outside Gujarat. It has been proved again by Karnataka." BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said Modi couldn’t have been a decisive factor as he addressed only a few rallies in Karnataka.
It was in anticipation of this defeat that Modi had kept his campaign in Karnataka low-profile.
The Congress can now ward off attacks from those saying people are going to punish it for graft, claiming that the Karnataka victory is a sign of people rejecting the BJP over corruption. “Karnataka people have shown what corruption really means,” said Congress leader Rashid Alvi, taking a dig at the BJP.
The lead in urban constituencies will also help Congress fight perceptions that the urban middle class is very angry with it.
Given that Rahul Gandhi made quite a few appearances in the state for campaigning, the Congress can now claim he won the state, and more so that people "preferred" him to BJP's Narendra Modi.
"He (Rahul) took a leading role in the campaigning and worked hard. I congratulate the Congress workers of Karnataka," read a tweet from the Prime Minister’s office.
It also gives the Congress a chance to spring back with a good tally in the Lok Sabha polls from a large state.
The Karnataka defeat is bound to lead to brainstorming within the BJP, as many feel internal differences led to Yeddyurappa’s ouster and this defeat. “People don’t cast their vote in India. They vote their caste,” said a BJP leader before the counting, saying the party was sure to lose.