Karnataka elections 2018: Who will win the great war?

New Delhi: Karnataka voted on Saturday in a single-phased poll to elect its new assembly and the results will be declared on Tuesday. The counting will begin at 8am.

The tenure of the 224-member Legislative Assembly will expire on May 28 in the state where the Congress is currently in power with 122 seats against the BJP’s 43.

The elections have become a matter of prestige for the two national parties as the BJP is looking to regain ground in this crucial southern state and it is the only big state the Congress is in power now. While the Congress has announced incumbent Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to lead the party’s charge, the BJP is projecting former CM BS Yeddyurappa as its face.

Of the 224 assembly segments across the state, 173 are general, 36 reserved for the Scheduled Castes and 15 for the Scheduled Tribes.

The pre-poll alliance between the Janata Dal Secular (JDS) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have created a noteworthy third front in Karnataka and can certainly have an impact on the forthcoming election results.

The 2008 assembly election in Karnataka was won by BJP comfortably with 110 seats, whereas the 2013 assembly election was swept by the Congress, who won 122 seats.

Most of the exit polls have given the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party the edge, while some have predicted a win for the ruling Indian National Congress. Some others, including the poll of polls, has projected a hung Assembly in Karnataka. But who can really rely on exit polls?

The three major players in the state are the Congress, the BJP and the Janata Dal (Secular) and here are the major scenarios that can emerge in Karnataka after the counting.

The BJP emerges as the single largest party, but falls short of a majority

Just three years after the party was formed 38 years ago, it opened its account in the southern state for the first time in 1983. The 2018 Karnataka Assembly election is a unique battle for the BJP.

If the BJP secures majority, the party will go ahead and form the government in Karnataka for the second time with BS Yeddyurappa as the chief minister. Reports suggest B Sriramulu, who is contesting from Bellary, may be made deputy CM in a bid to consolidate the Scheduled Tribes votebank ahead of 2019 General Elections.

In case the BJP manages to win seats close to the majority mark, it will have the option to seek support from Independents. Another scenario will be to ally with the JD(S), dubbed as the kingmaker.

While the two parties have denied seeking support from each other in case of a hung Assembly, there have been feelers from both the parties to each other in the run-up to elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and JD(S) chief HD Deve Gowda have complimented each other on a number of occasions.

Congress wins majority or emerges as the largest party

Founded in 1885, the Congress hopes its social engineering will help it beat anti-incumbency and a rampaging saffron election winning machine.

The Congress has never secured less than 34% votes in Karnataka in any of the Vidhan Sabha or Lok Sabha polls. The only exception was the communally surcharged environment of 1994 Karnataka Assembly election, when the BJP increased its vote share four-fold.

If the Congress party wins the minimum required 113 seats (total seats – 224; 222 went to polls on May 12), Siddaramaiah will in most likelihood become the chief minister for another term.

Siddaramaiah has said that this will be his last election. However, if the incumbent CM loses from both his Badami and Chamundeshwari constituencies, it might become difficult for him to retain the post.

On Sunday, although confident of Congress’ win in Assembly elections, Siddaramaiah even hinted that he was ready to ‘step aside’ if his party decides to make a Dalit leader as chief minister of Karnataka. “If there is any need for a change in CM, if they want a Dalit face, then high command will decide. Suggestions of MLAs also will be taken. No force decision can be taken,” he said.

In case the Congress fails to secure a majority in the Karnataka Assembly, it can ally with the JD(S) and even seek support from Independents. However, in such a scenario, Siddaramaiah may not return as CM as his relationship with the JD(S) has soured.

In fact, JD(S) has indicated that they are ready to support a Dalit CM in case the Congress takes a decision to this effect. That will happen if the two parties decided to ally post-poll.

JD(S) emerges as the kingmaker and forms the govt

In case of a hung Assembly and with the JD(S) winning a good number of seats, the party will form the government with HD Kumaraswamy as chief minister. For this, the party will need alliance or outside support either from the BJP or the Congress.

While the BJP may give outside support to the JD(S) to keep the Congress out of power in another state ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress may decide to support the JD(S) without joining the government to keep the BJP out of power.