Exit polls give jitters to Congress, BJP leaders; JD(S) expects hung verdict, eyes role in govt formation

PTI, May 11, 2023, 3:57 PM IST

With most exit polls predicting a tight contest between the Congress and BJP in the Assembly polls in Karnataka, leaders of the two parties seem ”jittery” over the outcome, while the Janata Dal (Secular) appears to be expecting a hung verdict, which would enable it to play a role in government formation. Most pollsters, however, have also given an edge to the Congress over the ruling BJP, while indicating the possibility of a hung Assembly in the state. Counting of votes is on May 13.

Political leaders were finally able to relax on Thursday after weeks of high-voltage campaigning and polling on Wednesday.

Though they are exuding confidence about their party winning comfortably in the polls to the 224-member Assembly, the exit polls have certainly made them anxious to an extent, sources in both national parties said. No one wants a 2018-like scenario to unfold this time too, they said. The JD(S) will be the key factor in case of a hung verdict, and may emerge as a ‘king’ or ‘kingmaker’, as in 2018.

Party leader H D Kumaraswamy, the man who holds the key to the formation of a coalition government, in case of a fractured mandate, has left for Singapore for a health checkup, and would be back on counting day, sources said.

The JD(S) leader was hospitalised during the campaigning for exhaustion and weakness. ”There is certainly a scenario of a hung verdict, and the strong possibility of a coalition government with JD(S) playing an active role. Let the results come out formally; things will get revealed one after the other as to who will play what role,” a senior JD(S) leader said on grounds of anonymity.

In the previous Assembly elections in 2018, the BJP emerged as the single largest party by winning 104 seats, followed by Congress with 80 seats and JD(S) 37. There was also one independent member, while the BSP and Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party (KPJP) got one legislator each elected. With no party getting a clear majority then, and as Congress and JD(S) were trying to forge an alliance, B S Yediyurappa of the BJP, which was the single largest party, staked a claim and formed the government. However, the government was dissolved within three days ahead of a trust vote, as Yediyurappa was unable to muster the required numbers.

Subsequently, the Congress-JD(S) alliance formed the government with Kumaraswamy as Chief Minister, but the wobbly dispensation collapsed in 14 months, as 17 legislators resigned and came out of the ruling coalition. They defected to the BJP and facilitated the party’s return to power.

On Thursday, AICC General Secretary in-charge of Karnataka Randeep Singh Surjewala met Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah at the latter’s residence here and held discussions.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai seemed confident on Thursday about BJP’s comfortable win, rejecting the exit polls.

”Last time, during the Karnataka election, exit polls had predicted 107 for Congress and 80 for BJP, but actually it was a reverse — BJP got 104 and Congress 80. There are several such examples about exit polls and it will once again repeat,” he said.

Modi’s campaign was a big plus for the BJP and it had a huge impact among youth and women voters, Bommai said in response to a question on whether the party would achieve its target of winning 150 seats. ”I have not said 150, I have been maintaining that BJP will get full majority and we will get it.” He did not want to respond to speculations about the possibility of a hung verdict. State Congress president D K Shivakumar too on his part exuded confidence about Congress winning 141 seats and forming a government with a full majority. He ruled out the possibility of a hung assembly.

Thanking his voters in Kanakapura Assembly constituency, Shivakumar said the strength that they had given was not just for him, it was for the people of the state. ”People from every house were candidates here and they fought the election,” he said.

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