New Delhi: The BJP may have fallen short of the majority mark in Karnataka, but its emergence as the single largest party leaving the Congress far behind has reaffirmed its dominant position on the country's political map.
However, with both the Congress-JD(S) combine and the BJP deciding to stake claim before the Governor to form the government, it was not clear if Karnataka would become the latest state to fall in the saffron kitty.
The Election Commission's website showed that the BJP was either leading or had won in 104 seats of the 222 constituencies where the polls were held, while the Congress' tally was reduced to 78. The BJP had won only 40 seats in 2013.
The JD(S) was leading or had won in 37 seats.
The BJP and its allies were already in power in 20 of the country's 29 states, with the party enjoying a majority on its own in 16 of them.
The BJP's winning juggernaut has rolled on from one state to another, barring a few hiccups, since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 and his close confidant
Amit Shah took over the party's leadership.
It ruled only five states before it stormed to power at the Centre and has since then added 11 more states in its kitty.
BJP general secretary Ram Madhav said his party's southward march had begun with Karnataka.
In contrast, national presence of the Congress continues to shrink and the party is now power only in two states, including Punjab and Mizoram, besides the Union Territory of Puducherry.
It may, however, manage to deny Karnataka to the BJP if its alliance with the JD(S) comes to power there. It has already extended its support to the party led by former prime minister H D Deve Gowda.
On the other hand, the BJP's show in the southern state would help it blunt the charge of opposition parties and its critics over a host of issues ranging from alleged farm distress to Dalit anger.
It would also draw some comfort from its show following its shock defeat in Uttar Pradesh Lok Sabha bypolls earlier this year.
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said his party's critics raise doubts over its prospects before every election but end up eating a humble pie when results are declared.
The saffron show in Karnataka will also give a fresh impetus to the party's bid to expand its footprints in southern states especially Kerala, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, before the next Lok Sabha polls.
Barring Bihar and Delhi, the BJP won every state where it was seen as a contender for power and also went on to notch up victories in states such as Tripura and several other northeast states where it had never been a force to reckon with.
The BJP and its allies are currently in power in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
In other states, regional parties continue to pose a formidable challenge to the BJP onslaught. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal and Odisha are being ruled by the AIADMK, TDP, TRS, Trinamool Congress and the BJD respectively, while the Left is in power in Kerala.