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Karnataka election suspense extends to results day as exit polls show hung assembly likely

Exit polls released on Saturday show the BJP and the Congress are in a close fight in the Karnataka elections, and the JD(S) may emerge as a kingmaker.

india Updated: May 13, 2018 10:55 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Bengaluru/New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Voters stand in a queue with their voting IDs at a polling booth during the Karnataka assembly elections 2018, at Hundi village in Mysore on Saturday.
Voters stand in a queue with their voting IDs at a polling booth during the Karnataka assembly elections 2018, at Hundi village in Mysore on Saturday. (PTI)
         

As voting ended in Karnataka on Saturday, a range of exit polls indicated that the election could throw up a hung assembly, with only a narrow margin separating the incumbent Congress and the challenger Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). A hung House could position the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD (S), the third political force in the state, as the potential kingmaker.

Two exit polls gave Congress the edge. India Today estimated that the Congress could win anywhere between 106 and 118 seats while placing the BJP tally at between 79 and 92 seats and that of the JD (S) at 22 to 30 seats. Times Now-VMR gave the Congress between 90 and 103 seats,the BJP between 80 and 93 seats, and JD(S) between 31 and 39 seats.

Three other polls said the BJP had the edge. The ABP News-C Voter poll estimated that BJP would win between 104 and 116 seats, Congress between 83 and 94, and JD(S) between 20 and 29 seats. NewsX-CNX gave the BJP between 102 and 110 seats, Congress 72-78 seats and JD(S) between 35 and 39 seats. Today’s Chanakya came up with a slightly wider range, placing the BJP tally at between 109 and 131 seats; It predicted that Congress would win between 62 and 84 seats and the JD(S) between 19 and 33 seats.

ChannelBJPCONGRESSJD(S)OTHERS
Republic TV95-11473-8232-4302-03
Today’s Chanakya120 ± 1173 ± 1126 ± 73 ± 3
India Today79-92106-11822-30--
Times Now-VMR80-9390-10331-39--
News X-CNX102-11072-7835-3903-04
ABP-C Voter97-10987-9921-3001-08
India TV 8797353
Color highlights the prediction for majority in #KarnatakaElections2018; Tweet to us @htTweets

To be sure, exit polls in India have got it wrong, sometimes spectacularly, in multiple elections in the past . Both the principal contenders in Karnataka, the Congress that is trying to hang on to the last large state it controls, and the BJP that is trying to wrest back the only southern state it has governed in the past, have asserted that they would win the election with a majority on their own. For the BJP, a win would give it a springboard for expansion in the south.

The exit polls triggered a war of words between the two parties, which only backed the polls that showed them as the favourites and claimed they would win when the results are declared on May 15.

“Even though it is satisfactory to note that most exit polls are showing a Congress victory or a majority for the Congress party, we are more than confident that the Congress will get 130+ seats on May 15 when the results will be declared,” Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

Anil Baluni, Rajya Sabha MP and head of the BJP’s media cell, had a similar reaction to the exit polls. “These are just trends which show improvement for the BJP and a slide for the Congress . BJP chief Amit Shah has said the party will win more than 130 seats and this will be proved right when the results are announced on May 15.”

Political analysts said the exit polls had revealed nothing new about the nature of the contest. “The fact that the race will be close was known from the beginning itself. All of these exit polls are equally divided and none of them have disclosed the methodology. So the suspense remains,” said Delhi-based political analyst N Bhaskara Rao.

A Narayana, associate professor for public policy at the Bengaluru-based Azim Premji University, agreed.

“The exit polls have once again confirmed that these elections are not an easy battle to judge. Actually, these have revealed nothing. Our expectations from the elections are as uncertain as before,” he said.

Both the Congress and BJP went the extra mile in the often acrimonious election campaign, showing how crucial Karnataka is for both. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah led the BJP campaign; the party has projected B S Yeddyuruppa as its chief ministerial face. The Congress campaign was led by party president Rahul Gandhi and CM Siddaramaiah. The JD(S) was spearheaded by the father-son duo of former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and former CM HD Kumaraswamy.

Chief minister Siddaramaiah declared that his party would win an outright majority. “I am confident that the Congress will get more than 120 seats. I will be the next chief minister for the state. There is no chance of a coalition government,” he said after exit poll numbers came in. The BJP’s Yeddyurappa wrote in a Twitter message that the party ..”is headed towards a landslide victory.”

JD (S) may l end up as the kingmaker in post-poll government formation if either of the two national parties falls short of a majority. JD(S) spokespersons were not available for comment.

First Published: May 12, 2018 23:24 IST