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JD(S) Becomes the Kingmaker In Karnataka Hung Verdict

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The Indian National Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) will stake claim to form the next government in Karnataka after election results thew up a hung assembly.

“As of now, we are working towards a coalition. Mr Kumaraswamy [JD(S) state president] is still a very popular leader,” Rajiv Gowda, Congress parliamentarian, told BloombergQuint. “Congress has more vote share than the BJP. When you add JD(S)’ vote share, the lead becomes sizable.”

JD(S) leader Danish Ali confirmed that his party has accepted the Congress’ offer. The two parties will jointly go and meet the governor, he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party emerged as the single-largest in Karnataka with 104 seats, short of a simple majority in the 224-member house, according to trends on the Election Commission’s website as of 3:15 p.m. The Congress had won or was ahead in 76. The JD(S) was ahead in 38 seats.

Gowda said there was no clear mandate, which comes with a majority. The BJP is just ahead of the other two parties, he said. “In other states like Goa, when the BJP did not get a mandate, they still managed to go ahead and formed a government.” The Congress will wait for the actual outcome and then “things will be negotiated between the two parties. I don’t think anything will happen easily.”

The BJP, however, is confident of getting a chance to form the government. “Writing is on the wall. The vote is against the Congress party. The BJP is the single-largest party and the people of Karnataka have chosen the party,” party spokesman Nalin Kohli told BloombergQuint. “The party will decide the course of action post the parliamentary party meeting. The single-largest party will have the chance to form the government.”

After a tough fight in Gujarat, a victory in Karnataka will bolster Modi’s chances of a return in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and sets the tone for crucial state polls that follow: Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. It’s also a setback for the Congress’ effort to project itself as the leading partner in a possible alliance of opposition parties to take on the BJP.

Already, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been trying to cobble together a third front, blamed the Congress for the loss. The party, she said, should have struck a pre-poll alliance with JD (S).

Within the Congress, efforts are on to deflect the blame from new party President Rahul Gandhi. Party leader DK Shivakumar, who is set to defy anti-incumbency and win from his pocket borough of Kanakapura, said that local unit failed to cash in on Gandhi’s efforts.

Higher Vote Share Doesn’t Help Congress

The Congress polled more votes across the state with a share of 37.9 percent, according to the Election Commission’s website at 3:20 p.m. That’s higher than the BJP’s 36.2 percent.

Also, since 1985, no ruling coalition or party has won two successive terms in Karnataka. That trend continues in the latest election when voter turnout hit a record 72 percent. It’s now the only southern state to be ruled by the BJP.

The BJP’s chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa won by over 24,000 votes over his nearest competitor in the Shikaripura seat in central Karnataka’s Shivamogga district. The party parliamentary board is set to meet at 6 p.m. at its headquarters in New Delhi, possibly to decide on its next course of action.

“I would like to thank the people of Karnataka for this mandate. The credit goes to the hard work of PM Modi and Amit Shah ji, as well as state leadership, party workers and RSS cadre,” BJP leader Ram Madhav said. “The BJP’s southward march has begun.”

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