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Monday, May 26, 2008

BJP set to form government in Karnataka

Congress far behind with 80 seats; though 3 short of majority, BJP says it has Independents’ support

— Photo: K. Murali Kumar

Triumphant: The BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, B.S. Yeddyurappa, Sadananda Gowda (left) and Ananth Kumar celebrate the party’s victory in the Karnataka Assembly elections, in Bangalore on Sunday.

BANGALORE: The Bharatiya Janata Party on Sunday emerged as the largest party in the 224-member Karnataka Assembly. Bagging 110 seats, three short of a majority, the party said it had the support of Independents to stake claim to form the government, its first in south India. The Congress won 80 seats and the Janata Dal (Secular) 28 in the three-phase, closely-contested elections, the results of which were declared by afternoon.

BJP national general secretary H.N. Ananth Kumar told a press conference that the formalities would be completed on Monday by electing B.S. Yeddyurappa leader of the legislature party. Party leaders would then call on Governor Rameshwar Thakur and stake claim to form the government. Mr. Kumar described the election as a “semi final,” in preparation for the “final” battle for Parliament.

Mr. Yeddyurappa will be leaving for Delhi on Monday night to meet the national leaders, some of whom are expected to come here for both the legislature party meeting and also for the swearing-in ceremony, likely to be held on Wednesday, if the Governor invites the party to form the government.

Major winners

Among the major winners in the elections are the former Chief Minister, H.D. Kumaraswamy, KPCC president Mallikarjuna Kharge and the former Deputy Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah. Prominent losers include the former Chief Ministers, S. Bangarappa, and N. Dharam Singh (who lost by a narrow margin of 70 votes in the Jewargi constituency of Gulbarga district).

Though the BJP has not won an absolute majority by itself, the electorate was looking for a stable government in the State. The fractured mandate of 2004 had resulted in three successive coalition governments ruling the State over a period of 40 months, with the last headed by Mr. Yeddyurappa having been in power for just a week.

The BJP is short of three seats for a majority, but Mr. Kumar was confident that the party would muster the “required support” before staking its claim and then facing the confidence vote on the floor of the legislature. Mr. Yeddyurappa declined to discuss how the party will reach the magical figure of 113. However, sources in the BJP said the party was banking on support from two of its rebels — Shivaraj Thangadagi (Kanakagiri) and Gulahatti Shekhar (Hosadurga) — who have won as Independents.

There are four other Independents (all Congress rebels) who have won the elections.

The former Prime Minister and national president of the Janata Dal (S), H.D. Deve Gowda, and Mr. Kumaraswamy accepted the verdict and said their party would prefer to sit in the Opposition. The Congress leaders have taken a similar line at least for now.


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