BENGALURU: The initial trends available from Karnataka after early rounds of counting on Tuesday suggest that HD Kumaraswamy's Janata Dal (S) is expected to play a kingmaker's role in government formation in this southern state.
According to the available trends, the JD(S), which wields a considerable clout in Karnataka, is said to be leading on 37+ seats. In the event of neither Congress nor BJP coming close to the halfway mark of 112, the JD(S) will automatically assume the role of a kingmaker in the state.
During the run-up to the polls, the JD(S) had claimed that it would win a majority and that its chief ministerial candidate HD Kumaraswamy will be the "king" and not the "kingmaker".
If BJP sources are to be believed, senior leaders of the party are in close contact with Kumaraswamy who returned from Singapore this morning.
Counting of votes for the 222 Karnataka Assembly seats began at 8 am at nearly 38 counting centers across the state, amid high security. As per the trends coming from the polling centers, it appears to be nail-biting finish between the ruling Congress and the BJP as of now. However, none appears to be winning a comfortable majority here. Interestingly, most of the exit polls had earlier predicted a hung assembly in Karnataka.
In one of the most high-profile and bitterly fought elections in the recent times, a total of 222 of the 224 seats went for polls involving a three-cornered contest between the ruling Congress, the BJP and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda's JD(S).
The polling percentage in the May 12 elections has been put at 72.13 percent by the Election Commission. However, it would be clear post noon whether the voters in Karnataka have given their verdict decisively as being claimed by the political parties, or for a hung assembly as projected by a majority of the post-poll surveys.
In case of a clear verdict in favour of the Congress, the grand old party will have broken the jinx of no political party retaining the reins of the state since 1985, when the erstwhile Janata Dal formed the government under Ramakrishna Hegde for a second consecutive term.
While a victory would help boost the sagging morale of the Congress, which is on a downhill journey losing state after state since Narendra Modi came to power at the Centre, defeat in Karnataka, the only big state it rules apart from Punjab, may further slow down the momentum for the party.
Losing Karnataka will also drastically weaken its claim for the leadership of a broader anti-BJP alliance that is being talked about.
In case the BJP gets the mandate, it reflects the enduring charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his capacity to power his party to victory across the country, clearing demographic and topographical obstacles, in combination with party's president Amit Shah's strategy.
It would also further galvanise the BJP cadre before the Assembly elections in party-ruled Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh later this year.
The JD(S) may or may not win the elections, but will certainly play the kingmaker if the electorate gives a split verdict, making Deve Gowda an important player in the state politics once again.
With the JD(S) having had partnered with both BJP and Congress in the past, it would be tough to predict which way it will go this time in the event of a hung House.
(With PTI inputs)