Sukhpal Singh Khaira, the Congress legislator, whose arrest in a drug case has put the two Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) partners
Congress is leading in Karnataka assembly polls in early trends and appeared to stretch its margin over the BJP with almost a seven per cent lead over the ruling party in vote share.
The early trends showed that the party was close to the halfway mark, leading on 112 seats at 10.35 am. According to Election Commission data, the BJP is leading on 74 seats, Janata Dal (Secular) on 30, Independents 3 and Kalyana Rajya Pragathi Paksha and Sarvodaya Karnataka Paksha on one each.
Trends were available for 219 of 224 seats in the state. The Congress has a vote share of 43.2 per cent while it is 36.4 per cent for BJP and 12.6 per cent for JD(S). The halfway mark in assembly is 113.
The counting of votes began at 8 am amid tight security across the state.
There were celebrations at Congress headquarters in Delhi in anticipation of victory.
Former Karnataka CM and JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy visited a temple in Bengaluru amid the counting of votes for Karnataka polls.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra visited a Lord Hanuman temple in Shimla
The exit polls predicted a hung assembly with some showing Congress returning to power with a majority. A few exit polls also showed BJP ahead.
If there is hung assembly, Janata Dal (Secular) can play the role of a kingmaker.
Kumaraswamy on Saturday said that he has not been contacted as yet for the formation of the government in case of a cliffhanger, adding that he is hoping for a good show.
“In the next 2-3 hours, it will become clear. Exit polls show that the two national parties will score in a big way. The polls have given 30-32 seats to JD(S). I am a small party, there is no demand for me…I am hoping for a good development,” he said.
“No one has contacted me till now. Let us see the final results first. According to the exit polls, there is no need for options. Let us see,” the JD(S) leader added.
The exit polls, which were released after the polling ended in Karnataka, predicted that Janata Dal-Secular JD(S) would not touch the 37 seats it won in the 2018 polls but will continue to be a strong regional player in the state.
The fiercely contested election that saw high-pitch campaigns from the political parties is crucial for both BJP and Congress.