Counting of votes for 222 Assembly seats in Karnataka began at 8 am on Tuesday, with both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) exhuming confidence of a victory. The third major player – Janata Dal Secular – is expected to emerge as the kingmaker with several exit polls predicting a hung Assembly in the state. Polling for the 222 seats took place on May 12 as fate of 2,655 candidates was locked in EVMs. Karnataka recorded a record voter turnout of 72.13 per cent – the highest since the 1952 Karnataka Assembly elections.
The election was countermanded in Jayanagar constituency after the sitting BJP MLA BN Vijayakumar died of a heart attack during campaigning while it was deferred in Rajarajeshwari Nagar seat to May 28 after almost 10,000 fake voter cards were recovered from a flat in the area.
Karnataka witnessed a high-decibel campaign with big names like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi leading the battle for the BJP and the Congress respectively. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is facing a tough battle to ensure Congress returns to power. Even history is against him as no party has been able to win two consecutive Karnataka Assembly elections since the Janata Dal's victory in 1983 and 1985. Siddaramaiah on Sunday sounded confident of Congress retaining power and added that this was his last election. He contested from two seats - Chamundeshwari and Badami.
He also ruled out that Congress was exploring a post-poll alliance with the former prime minister HD Deve Gowda-led JDS. The Congress has been facing a string of electoral routs over the last few years with the only exception being Punjab Assembly elections 2017 and apart a win in Karnataka will come as a shot in the arm for the Grand Old Party.
Meanwhile, PM Modi has given the party hopes of returning to power for the second time in the state. BJP's chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa and party national president Amit Shah have claimed that their party would secure a majority on its own in Karnataka Assembly. Yeddyurappa predicted that the BJP would win 130 seats and the Congress would be relegated to a distant second with just 70 while the JDS would bag 25 seats.
Exit polls have predicted a hung Assembly with almost all of them predicting a close contest between the ruling Congress and its main rival the BJP with JDS expected to play the role of a kingmaker if no party manages to secure a majority on its own. At present, the majority mark is 112 as results will be declared for only 222 seats. While Karnataka Assembly has 225 seats, voting takes place for 224 constituencies as one is a nominated member from the Anglo-Indian community.