NEW DELHI: Karnataka may be heading towards a hung assembly this time, with neither Congress nor BJP is likely to win a clear majority in the 225-member state assembly.
According to IndiaTV-VMR exit poll, BJP may win 87 seats, Congress 97 seats, JD-S 35 seats in Karnataka, suggesting a hung assembly in Karnataka.
HD Deve Gowda's Janata Dal (S) will emerge as the third largest party, according to India TV-VMR exit poll predictions.
The final seat tally projections by India TV-VMR exit poll show the ruling Congress leading with 97 (in a range of 90 to 103 seats), BJP trailing with 87 seats (in a range of 80-93 seats), and the Janata Dal(S)-BSP alliance set to become the decider with 35 seats (in a 31-39 seat range).
'Others', which include independents, may win only three seats, the exit poll claimed.
Polling was held today for 222 seats in the 225-seat Karnataka assembly. Voting takes place for 224 seats. One is nominated from Anglo Indian community
The high-stakes battle for the Karnataka Assembly ended on Saturday evening, with over 35 million voting in an election crucial for the ruling Congress as well as the BJP and the JD-S.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said he was "very very confident" that the Congress would retain power in the only major southern state it now rules even as officials said about 70 percent of the over 5.06 crore electorate had voted till 6 pm.
Voting was peaceful by and large barring a few incidents of some non-functional EVMs, missing voter names and procedural delays, a poll panel official said.
All three main contenders for power - Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) - claimed they would win hands down.
Voting in Chikkaballapur and Ramanagara districts witnessed a record 76 percent polling, while the average polling across Bengaluru was 48 percent till 5.30 pm.
The BJP's Chief Ministerial face BS Yeddyurappa was among the first to vote at Shikaripura in Shivamogga district. He has claimed that the BJP will secure 140-150 seats and that he will invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his swearing in.
Siddaramaiah ridiculed him after voting on Saturday, saying the BJP leader was "mentally disturbed" and that the Congress was sure of bagging more than 120 seats.
JD-S chief and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, his wife Chennamma and second son HD Revanna cast their votes in their hometown Holenarsipura in Hassan district.
Polling in Bengaluru's Raja Rajeshwari Nagar segment has been postponed to May 28 following the discovery of voter ID cards and deferred in the city's Jayanagar seat following the death of BJP contestant BN Vijaya Kumar.
In all, voting was conducted in 26 of the 28 constituencies in the city.
Karnataka has over 5.06 crore electorate, including 2.6 crore men and 2.5 crore women. A total of 15.42 lakh voters, aged 18-19, have registered for the first time.
The highest number of voters (6.03 lakh) are in Bengaluru South and the lowest (1.7 lakh) at Sringeri in Chikkamagaluru district.
Polling was held in 58,008 stations in 30 districts, with 600 of them dubbed 'pink booths', overseen by women personnel. Over 1.5 lakh security personnel were deployed.
The vote count will take place on May 15.
In all, 2,654 candidates are in the fray, including 219 women. A total of 222 are from the Congress and BJP each, 201 from JD-S, 1,155 Independents and 800 from other national, regional and fringe parties. About 450 contestants are in the battle from Bengaluru.
Siddaramaiah is contesting from Chamundeshwari at Mysuru and Badami in Bagalkot district.
BJP's Lok Sabha member from Ballari B.R. Sriramaulu, contesting from two seats including Badami and Molakamuru (reserved) seat in Chitradurga district, on Saturday worshipped a cow and visited temples before voting.
JD-S state president and former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy is in the fray from Ramanagara and Channapatna seats in the old Mysuru region. Yeddyurappa is contesting from Shikaripura in Shivamogga district in Malnad region.
Siddaramaiah has fielded his son Yatindra from his hometown Varuna in Mysuru district.