Politics Sunday, May 25, 2008

BJP stuns Congress in Karnataka, to rule in south first time

By V.S. Karnic and amp; Fakir Balaji. Karnataka, India, 07:03 PM IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party Sunday crushed Congress hopes of halting its march in south India by winning near majority in the Karnataka assembly and will stake claim Monday to forming its first government in the south.

With almost all the 224 results of the three-phase balloting earlier this month declared, BJP had won 110 seats, two short of the halfway mark, and was in touch with independents, who have won at least six seats, to reach the magic absolute majority figure of 113.

The newly elected legislators are meeting in Bangalore Monday noon to formally elect 65-year-old B.S. Yediyurappa as their leader. BJP had projected Yediyurappa as its chief ministerial candidate during the campaign for the polls held May 10, 16 and 22.

Yediyurappa was chief minister for a week in November last year at the head of a shaky coalition with Janata Dal-Secular, headed by former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda.

The Congress strategy to emerge at least as the single largest party came unstuck though it did better than in the 2004 polls by winning around 80 seats. In 2004 it had managed just 65 seats.

JDS which had enjoyed power for 40 months after the 2004 split verdict, first in alliance with the Congress and then with BJP, was virtually routed as it managed to win 28 seats, 30 less than what it had bagged in 2004.

BJP had won 79 seats in 2004 and now has taken its tally close to the halfway mark of 112.

Perhaps for the first time, the Karnataka assembly polls assumed national importance as they were being held just months ahead of elections to several states in north India and the parliamentary polls due early next year.

The focus was on whether the Congress has the strategy, organizational strength and leadership capable of preventing the Lotus from blooming in the south.

Widely varying projections from pre-poll surveys and exit polls which indicated a hung assembly like in 2004 gave some hope for the Congress that it may yet achieve its goal.

Early trends from counting that began at 8 a.m. in 48 centres across the state also indicated Congress and BJP in a neck-and-neck race with JDS a distant third.

But BJP had the last laugh, though it fell short of a clear mandate by a few seats, as it trampled on JDS hopes of being a king-maker yet again and the Congress wish of regaining power, at least in alliance with JDS.

BJP topped its three-point poll plank of ‘betrayal, inflation and terrorism’ with a simple but fervent appeal: ‘You have given 50 years to others, please give us one chance.’

The party has got the chance after decades of waiting and praying for it.

The Bahujan Samaj Party of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and the Samajwadi Party headed by her predecessor Mulayam Singh Yadav have again failed to win a single seat.

The Samajwadi Party suffered a huge setback as its state chief and former Karnataka chief minister lost by over 40,000 votes to Yediyurappa in Shikaripura in Shimoga district, about 330 km from here.

The BSP, which contested 217 seats, did not win even one, a repeat of the 2004 showing. It needs to be seen whether and, if so, in how many seats it affected the Congress.

In 2004, the BSP’s presence was said to be the reason for the defeat of Congress candidates in over 20 seats.



Politics Sunday, May 25, 2008

Counting of votes in Karnataka begins

From correspondents in Karnataka, India, 09:31 AM IST

Counting of votes of the Karnataka assembly elections, whose outcome could have a bearing on national politics, began Sunday morning in 48 centres across the state under tight security.

The first trends are expected by 10.30 am and all the 224 results may be announced by 3 pm, according to the state election commission.

More than 6,000 officials are tabulating the votes. About 65 percent of around 42 million electorate voted in the three-phase elections May 10, 16 and 22 to pick 224 members from among 2,241 candidates.

There are 108 women contestants, a majority of them independents.

Karnataka is the first state to hold polls with re-drawn constituencies following recommendations of the Delimitation Commission, which has reserved more seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes without altering the strength of the assembly.

Officials will employ a new software, developed by the National Informatics Centre, to make real-time result announcements on the Internet.

The Congress is contesting 222 of the 224 seats of the assembly. It withdrew its candidate from Shikaripura in Shimoga district to make it a straight contest between former Karnataka chief minister S. Bangarappa, who heads the state Samajwadi Party, and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) chief ministerial candidate B.S. Yediyurappa.

The Congress failed to field a candidate in one constituency as two aspirants fought for nomination and the party suffered embarrassment as the nominations of both were rejected.

The BJP has fielded candidates in all seats followed by the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) in 219 constituencies, the Bahujan Samaj Party in 217, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) 10 and the Communist Party of India nine.

Besides Yediyurappa, other chief ministerial aspirants are state Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, former deputy chief minister Siddaramaiah, also of the Congress, and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy of JD-S.

In 2004, the Congress had won only 65 seats and BJP had emerged as the single largest party with 79 seats. The JD-S had bagged 58.


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