BANGALORE: With exit polls predicting a hung Assembly, the two principal contenders for power in Karnataka have started wooing the Janata Dal (S) led by H D Kumaraswamy, who has emerged as the kingmaker in most of the exit polls.
A CNN News18 report said that Congress has formally sought the help of the JD (S) leadership in forming a coalition government in the event of a hung Assembly. Senior leaders are learnt to be in touch with Kumaraswamy, who is currently in Singapore.
The Congress has reached out to the JD (S) after clearing the way for a chief ministerial candidate acceptable to the party. Current chief minister Siddaramaiah, who is a friend-turned foe of the JD (S) leadership, has already conveyed his willingness to opt out of the race if the party high command wants a dalit leader to become the chief minister.
The strategists in the Congress Party have mooted a dalit leader as it will be more acceptable to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BJP), with which the JD (S) has stitched an alliance in the state. However, the party is also said to be ready to consider Vokaliga leader D Sivakumar and Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy if the JD (S) extends the search behind dalits.
A Business Standard Report said that the Congress was also willing to negotiate a power-sharing formula with the JD (S). Both the BJP and the Congress had run coalition governments with the JD (S) between 2004 and 2008. The Congress is ready to repeat it by offering half the term to Kumaraswamy.
The Business Standard report said that the BJP had also presented a similar proposal before the JD (S) leadership. The saffron party is said to be even ready to concede the first half of the five-year term to Kumaraswamy if it agrees to share power with the party.
However, political observers feel that it won’t be easy for the JD (S) to join hands with the BJP since it is BSP’s main rival in Uttar Pradesh. They believe that BSP supremo Mayavati may not be amenable for a tie-up with BJP in Karnataka since her main aim to unseat Narendra Modi from power at the Centre in the 2019 general elections.
She has joined hands with Samajwadi Party, which was her arch rival till recently, to check the BJP in her home turf. Political analysts believe that Mayavati will severe its links with the JD (S) if the party agrees to share power with the BJP.
It is to be waited and seen whether the JD (S) will be ready to join hands with the BJP at the cost of the BSP. A Times of India report from Lucknow said that the BSP leaders were closely watching the developments in Karnataka.
The JD (S) leadership has not made its stand clear after the exit polls. The party has only claimed that neither incumbent chief minister Siddaramaiah nor BJP chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa will become chief minister of Karnataka. Political analysts believe this as an indication that the party will support either the Congress or the BJP only if Kumaraswamy is made the chief minister.
The picture will become clearly only after the counting of the votes on May 15. Both Siddaramaiah and Yeddyurappa are confident of getting absolute majority. BJP national president Amit Shah, who is the main architect of the party victories in several states, has also shared the confidence.
According to most of the post-poll surveys, the BJP is set to emerge as the single largest party. Only the India Today-Axis poll has given the Congress majority. Two surveys said BJP would either come very close to or cross the halfway mark of 112 seats.
Meanwhile, all the three players claim that the higher voter turnout in the election on May 12 will be advantageous to them. While the Congress has described the 72.13 percent polling, highest-ever in Karnataka since the 1952 Assembly elections, as an indication of the affirmation of the achievements of the Siddaramaiah government, the BJP has viewed the higher turnout as anti-incumbency votes.
The Congress had won 122 seats and the BJP 40 seats in the last Karnataka Assembly election in 2013, when the voter turnout was 71.4 percent. As usual the capital city of Bangalore recorded the lowest turnout in the state. According to election commission figures, the final polling in the city is 54.3 percent. It is lesser than 57.6% recorded in 2013.
The counting of votes for the 222 seats, for which elections were held, will begin at 8 am Tuesday amid tight security. There are 38 counting centres across the state, five of them in Bangalore. At least 100 security personnel have been deployed at each counting centre under the supervision of an officer of the rank of superintendent of police or deputy commissioner of police.
Entry has been made limited to those who have authorisation. Prohibitory orders will be put in place from Monday evening. It will continue till Tuesday midnight. Celebrations, processions and bursting of crackers around the counting centres have been banned to avoid any untoward incident.
The first trend of the counting is expected to be available at 8.30 am. Arrangements have been made for live broadcast of the results at all taluk centres across the state. The results will also be available live on internet. All the results are expected to be announced by evening.