Karnataka: Congress, BJP confident of victory; potential kingmaker JD(S) opts to wait and watch

Most exit polls predicted Congress emerging as the single-largest party


A day before the counting of the votes in the Karnataka assembly elections, held on May 10, the leaders of the three major political parties held a series of closed-door meetings with their partymen to discuss the next course of action in case of a hung assembly.

While most exit polls have hinted at the Congress emerging as the single-largest party or even securing a clear majority, the ruling BJP maintained that they will win an absolute majority to retain power in the state. The regional party, the Janata Dal (Secular), which will be the kingmaker in case of a hung verdict, remained non-committal towards the two national parties.

Former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy flew out of the country to Singapore, citing a medical check-up. However, speculations are rife over the JD(S) leader being in talks with both the Congress and the BJP.

The Congress seemed in high spirits over the exit polls predicting a higher number of seats for the party and held a series of meetings with AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge at the former's residence.

KPCC chief D.K. Shivakumar, who arrived at Kharge's residence along with AICC general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala, told the reporters that he does not trust exit polls. "I don't trust any exit poll as my calculation tells me the Congress will win 141 seats," said Shivakumar.

BJP leaders put up a brave front despite most exit polls suggesting a setback for the ruling party. The party leaders exuded confidence that the BJP will secure an absolute majority in the state.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, along with his cabinet colleagues Murugesh Nirani and Byrati Basavaraj, rushed to former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa's official residence in Bengaluru to discuss the probability of a hung verdict and to assess its position from the feedback received from the booth agents.

"I am very clear that we will reach the magic number. There is no question of an alliance as we will secure an absolute majority. I know the Congress party will not get a clear majority," said Bommai.

Yediyurappa dismissed the exit polls and said he was confident of the BJP forming the government. "I don't accept any exit poll results. I have toured the state and I am confident of the BJP winning 120 seats. I would like to tell my partymen in Bengaluru and elsewhere that there is no cause for concern," said Yediyurappa, and advised BJP workers to closely watch the Congress's moves.

Even as the state BJP leaders were busy compiling the numbers from their polling booth agents, they were also working out possibilities in case of a hung verdict and reached out to independent candidates who are most likely to win.

Meanwhile, both the national parties being in talks with the JD(S) for a post-poll alliance cannot be ruled out. The BJP had lost an opportunity to form the government in 2018 despite emerging as the single-largest party with 104 seats after the Congress, which bagged 78 seats, joined hands with the JD(S) by handing over the CM's post to Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) that had 37 seats.

According to sources, the MLA candidates of all three parties are under the watchful eyes of their party leadership to thwart any attempts of poaching by the rivals. In a state that is plagued by horse-trading and 'resort politics', neither party managing to pull off a clear majority may trigger high drama and chaos.

"We are going to win 108 seats and are facing a close fight in about 35 seats. Even if we win half of those seats, we will cross 120 seats," said minister Nirani.

Revenue Minister R. Ashok pointed out that at least two surveys had predicted a clear majority for the BJP.

"Whatever be the outcome, we are confident of forming the government," asserted Ashok, hinting at an alliance or even 'Operation Kamala', a strategy used by the saffron party to wrest power by poaching rebel MLAs from the rival parties to make good the shortage of seats in the past.

Union minister Shobha Karandlaje asserted that the BJP would win as Yediyurappa had predicted.

JD(S) state president C.M. Ibrahim alleged that the big parties hatched conspiracies, and used money and muscle power to defeat the regional party. "This is a party of the poor and the farmers. We lost some seats due to fund crunch. However, people have supported us. Kumaraswamy has gone abroad for a health check-up and will come back today night," said Ibrahim.

Meanwhile, Kumaraswamy is said to have sent feelers to both camps and is likely to favour the party that would honour the JD(S)' demands. JD(S) patriarch H.D. Deve Gowda made calls to his party MLA candidates in a bid to keep the flock together amid rumours of Congress chief Shivakumar trying to woo a few JD(S) leaders, seeking their support to the Congress party in case of a hung assembly. 

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