Bengaluru: As Karnataka readies on Tuesday to count votes polled on Saturday in the 222 Assembly constituencies, the Congress, BJP and JD-S are sitting on an edge over the verdict that is likely to have a bearing on their fortunes in the 2019 general elections.
A day after a record 72.13 percent of 5.06-crore electorate voted on a hot weekend, leaders of the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday claimed their party would be winning hands down, while the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) vowed to decide who will form the next government, if it does not get majority.
Polling was held in 222 segments of the 224-member legislative assembly, as election to Bengaluru`s Raja Rajeshwari (RR) Nagar had been postponed to May 28 in the voter cards case and countermanded in Jayanagar segment due to the death of BJP contestant B.N. Vijaya Kumar on May 4 here.
Of the total Assembly segments, 36 are reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and 15 for the Scheduled Tribes (STs) across the southern state.
"The heavy turnout in semi-urban and rural areas across the state is a clear sign of the people voting for a stable government or a change due to anti-incumbency against the ruling Congress," a poll pundit told IANS on Monday.
Higher voting percentage in the four districts of the old Mysuru region, a stronghold of the JD-S, also points to the revival of its fortunes as it would likely be called upon to play a crucial role in the formation of the next government - in the event of a hung verdict.
The four districts - Ramanagara, Mandya, Mysuru and Chamarajanagar have a large number of Vokkaligas, a politically-dominant community to which JD-S supremo and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda belongs, though he hails from Hassan, about 180km northwest of Bengaluru.
Banking on its traditional bastions, spawning coastal, central (Malnad) and northwest areas, the BJP is confident of winning on the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and its chief ministerial nominee BS Yeddyurappa, who belongs to the powerful Lingayat community that dominates the regions.
The ruling Congress, which has a strong presence in the northern and southern regions, is betting on its five-year stable government, several welfare schemes for the poor, minorities, backward classes, Dalits and women, to retain power.
Lower voting (55 per cent) in 26 of the 28 segments in Bengaluru where the election was held, is worrying both the Congress and the BJP, as the outcome here holds key to their prospects of securing a simple majority (113) or emerging as the single largest party in a fractured verdict.
Downplaying the exit polls, of which majority (7 out of 9) gave a favourable verdict to the BJP, a defiant Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was confident the ruling Congress would retain power, as, according to him "there was no anti-incumbency". His party, he said, had given a stable government and had fulfilled all the promises it made.
Terming the various exit polls as "entertainment", Siddaramaiah told his party workers and supporters at Mysuru on Sunday to relax and enjoy the weekend.
"We are coming back", he tweeted.
On the other hand, Yeddyurappa said the BJP would get a clear majority and ruled out a hung verdict.
"I have seen the exit polls on various channels. The BJP will form the majority government on Tuesday and the Congress will exit from Karnataka. There is no question of joining hands with anyone," claimed Yeddyurappa on Sunday.
JD-S president HD Kumaraswamy, however, maintained that his party would be the king and not kingmaker to form the next government with the support of its ally Bhujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Independents.