Voting ends in Karnataka elections; BJP, Congress confident of victory as exit polls predict close contest
Polling began at 7am in Karnataka, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking to wrest control over one of the few states left in the hands of the opposition Congress party.
Exit polls predicted a close fight between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress in Karnataka where voting ended at 6pm on Saturday, with the turnout provisionally pegged at 67% and seen rising up to 70%.
The state assembly has 224 seats but elections were postponed in south Bengaluru’s Jayanagar after the BJP candidate died and in the city’s RR Nagar after thousands of voter identity cards were found in an apartment. Some 2,654 candidates, including 216 women, are in the fray.
Senior deputy election commissioner Umesh Sinha said the voting percentage was likely to go up as data was still being collated from various polling stations where people queued up beyond 6 p.m. when the voting was supposed to end.
Sinha said the highest polling of 76 per cent was recorded in Chikkaballapura and Ramanagara while Bengaluru Urban had the lowest turnout at 48 per cent.
Sinha said the “seizure of cash, liquor and other goods was to the tune of ₹186 crore, which was six times more than the Lok Sabha and eight times more than the Assembly election in 2013”.
Leaders of the Congress, the BJP and the Janata Dal (Secular) to say the they were confident of victory. Catch the live coverage of Karnataka Elections 2018
Elections that matter
For the Congress, a win in Karnataka would be a shot of confidence ahead of upcoming battles in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan later in the year, apart from the big prize of the general elections in 2019. The importance of Karnataka can be gauged by the fact that even United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi has hit the campaign trail after a two-year hiatus.
The BJP is attempting to snatch the last large prize in the Congress’s kitty. After falling out with N Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh, it will be hoping that a win in Karnataka will serve as a gateway to its southern ambitions. It will also want to send a message to both opponents and allies who might be sitting on the fence ahead of 2019 that it is still the pre-eminent national party.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held numerous public rallies across Karnataka, and BJP president Amit Shah personally took charge of the campaign in the state.
Sustaining a regional force in a state with heavy presence of two national parties is not an easy task. However, Deve Gowda and his son and former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy, who both lead the JD (S), have managed to do it, primarily on the fact that Vokkaligas, the second-largest community in the state spread over the Old Mysuru region, have largely been loyal backers of the party.
Having been out of power for a decade, JD (S) has been constrained in terms of resources but still packs enough punch to win about 10-20% of seats in the state. The best case scenario for the party is where both Congress and BJP lack a majority and are dependent on it to make numbers. If it crosses 50 seats, it will demand the CM’s chair or at least the chair by rotation, an arrangement it had with the BJP earlier.
Opinion polls have margins of error and have notoriously gone wrong in the past. But of the eight polls done by well-known agencies till now, four indicate a hung house, three indicate Congress having a majority and only one gives the BJP a majority of its own. Whether this will change based on Modi’s last-week blitz will be revealed on May 15. History is against Siddaramaiah though. The last time a state government was re-elected was in 1985.
(with agency inputs)