Friday, June 2, 2023

Exit polls give jitters to Cong, BJP leaders; JD(S) expects hung verdict

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 have 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. Giving an update on polling, the Election Commission said on Thursday evening that the final voter turnout was 73.19 per cent. “Karnataka has created a record for itself (in voter turnout)”.
The ruling BJP, which sought to return to power in the Assembly elections held on Wednesday, said it saw no possibility of a hung verdict, and asserted that it would get an absolute majority in the 224-member Lower House.
Union Minister Shobha Karandlaje on Thursday ruled out the possibility of an ‘Operation Lotus’, saying the BJP would get 120 to 125 seats and return to power. The term ‘Operation Lotus’ was coined several years ago by the opposition Congress and the JD(S) in the state referring to some alleged attempts by the BJP earlier to “poach opposition MLAs” when it failed to get a majority on its own.
Karandlaje said the “primary reports” obtained post elections suggest that the party was getting 120 to 125 seats.
Asked whether the BJP would need to resort to ‘Operation Lotus’, she said, “Absolutely not. Have faith. No situation will arise for any sort of ‘Operation Lotus’. This time the people of the state will vote for the development of the state and will give a majority government.”
The state election management committee convener said there would not be any “chaotic situation” (hung verdict).
Political leaders were finally able to relax on Thursday after weeks of high-voltage campaigning and polling on Wednesday.
Though they exude confidence about their party winning comfortably in the polls to the 224-member Assembly, the exit polls — most of which did not predict a clear winner — 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 ‘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 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.”
State Congress president D K Shivakumar too exuded confidence about Congress winning 141 seats and forming a government with a full majority. He ruled out the possibility of a hung assembly.


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