BENGALURU, May 15 - The BJP emerged as the single largest party today but fell 9 seats short of a majority in Karnataka where the Congress dramatically backed third-placed rival JD(S) for a post-poll alliance to keep the saffron party out of power.
Karnataka BJP workers celebrate outside the party office in Bengaluru on Tuesday. – PTI
All eyes are now on Governor Vajubhai Vala who will have to decide whether to call BJP to try to form the government or go with the JD(S)-Congress combine, which together have a clear majority in the 224-member Assembly.
Elections were held for 222 seats on May 12 while polling for the remaining two will be held later.
Both sides rushed to meet Vala, their vehicles slowly cutting through the throngs of party workers and supporters assembled outside the Raj Bhavan gates, and staked claim to power.
Addressing BJP workers in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who undertook a vigorous campaign, hailed the party’s win in Karnataka as “unparalleled and unprecedented”.
The BJP bagged 104 seats, a gain of 64 , while the Congress notched 78, a loss of 44 seats, though its vote share was nearly two percentage points more than the saffron party.
The JD(S) secured 37 seats, down by three from its previous tally.
In a roller-coaster ride for BJP, it initially appeared that the party was set to return to power after a five-year hiatus with a resounding majority. But at the end of counting of votes it came tantalisingly close to 113 needed to form the government.
“We had to be ready for any eventuality. So when there was a window, we chipped in,” Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told India Today TV. “...When the JD(S) and the Congress numbers swelled up, that was the time we felt we can make it.”
Azad’s comments summed up the breathtaking daylong developments in an election seen as a bellwether for the 2019 general elections at a time when the saffron wave is sweeping the country. Karnataka was the only major non-BJP ruled state, and the party offices had reverberated with jubilation in the morning when initial trends put it ahead.
Several BJP and Congress leaders rushed to Bengaluru from the national capital.
The swift political manoeuvring by Congress in reaching out to JD(S) showed that it had learnt its lesson after the debacle in Manipur and Goa where it failed to form the government despite being the single largest party because of BJP’s shrewd moves.
“We have all together discussed and decided this.... This is the opinion of the All India Congress party. Congress will support JD(S) because there is a hung Assembly situation here as no party has been given clear majority by the people,” outgoing Chief Minister Siddaramaiah told reporters after submitting his resignation.
Congress Leaders Siddaramaiah, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjuna Kharge along with JD(S) state Chief H D Kumaraswamy met Vala and submitted a letter seeking an opportunity to form the government. – PTI