Bengaluru, May 15 (IANS) Major drama unfolded as the counting of votes progressed in Karnataka on Tuesday with the BJP, for most part of the day, seeming set to return to power until the Congress sprung a surprise by announcing its support to the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) and paving the way for the party with the smallest number of seats to form the government.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also announced it had urged Governor Vajubhai Vala to let it prove its majority support in the Assembly.
The Governor is yet to invite any party to stake claim to form the government.
The BJP and the Congress were engaged in a close fight during the first hour of counting with the former, at around 9.30 a.m., leading in 98 and the latter in 91 of the 222 constituencies that went to the polls on Saturday.
However, by the second hour, the BJP dramatically surged ahead towards the victory mark by leading in 105 seats, leaving the ruling Congress badly bruised and the JD-S at the third spot.
The BJP claimed victory by around 11 a.m. and noisy celebrations broke out in party offices in Bengaluru, New Delhi and across Karnataka as its nominees were on the victory lap in 118 constituencies. The Congress suffered major blows and was ahead only in 62 seats.
The BJP was so confident of returning to power that congratulatory messages from its party leaders as well as allies started pouring in with several BJP leaders crediting the victory to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s extensive election campaign.
However, the Congress improved its tally to over 70 seats by the second half of counting with the JD-S also taking its number close to 40, thereby narrowing the BJP’s lead and pulling it short of the half-way mark.
After the initial euphoria of the BJP crossing the half-way mark in the 224-member Assembly — the election was countermanded in one constituency and one member is nominated — Election Commission data showed the BJP could end up with 104 seats, eight seats short of a simple majority.
The Congress was leading in 78 seats and the JD-S in 37.
In a dramatic turn of events, the Congress announced its backing to the JD-S to form a government and prevent the BJP from regaining power in its only southern bastion.
As it became clear that the BJP might not cross the half-way mark, Congress leaders quickly got in touch with the JD-S of former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his son and former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy.
Congress General Secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad told the media in the company of outgoing Chief Minister Siddaramaiah that the JD-S had accepted the Congress offer of support.
But in another twist in the tale, BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, B.S. Yeddyurappa, announced in the evening that he had urged the Governor to let him prove his majority in the Assembly.