Voting to elect four Rajya Sabha members from Karnataka ended on Thursday with all eyes on the fate of business tycoon Vijay Mallya who is hoping to enter the upper house for the second time as an independent.
With support from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), Mallya appears certain to win against Congress nominee T.V. Maruthi, one of the biggest silk merchants in Karnataka.
The BJP has directed all its 116 legislators and five independents supporting it to cast their second preference votes to the liquor baron.
Members of the assembly make up the electoral college for the Rajya Sahba elections.
Election officials said 221 of 223 members of the 224-seat assembly had voted. While one seat is vacant, one BJP member and one Congress member did not vote. The BJP legislator is former minister H. Halappa, who is facing rape charges and is in hospital. All 27 JD-S members and six independents have voted.
The BJP divided the first preference votes at 61 for its former president M. Venkaiah Naidu and 60 for its second nominee Ayanur Manjunath, state party leaders said.
A candidate needs 45 first preference votes to win. If the candidate does not secure these votes, then second preference ballots will be counted.
Mallya is assured of support by the 27 JD-S assembly members and one independent and needs 17 first preference votes for victory. He will make it to the upper house on BJP's second preference votes.
The Congress with 74 members can win one seat for which it has fielded general secretary and former union minister Oscar Fernandes.
Hoping to give a tough fight to Mallya, the Congress has directed all its legislators to cast second preference votes to Maruthi. This may not ensure his win as BJP's second preference votes at 121 outnumber Congress' second preference ballots.
The official result is expected later Thursday.