India's BJP wins most seat in Karnataka state elections

The elections bode well for Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of next year's general elections

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses party supporters during a celebration event ahead of wining the Karnataka election in New Delhi on May 15, 2018. India's opposition Congress party suffered an electoral setback May 15 in one of the last major states which it governs and scrambled to build a coalition to stop Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party taking over. Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won most seats in Karnataka but fell short of a clear majority in the state of 60 million people, which includes the wealthy global IT hub of Bangalore. / AFP / CHANDAN KHANNA
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push for next year’s general election received a shot in the arm yesterday after his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the most number of seats in assembly elections in the southern state of Karnataka.

The party has staked a claim to head the regional government, despite winning a few seats fewer than the needed majority.

Of the 222 seats contested on Saturday, BJP won 104. The main opposition Congress Party took 78, Janata Dal Secular secured 38 and independent candidates won the remaining two seats.

Mr Modi, who spearheaded his party’s election campaign, believes the positive results will help him make further inroads into southern Indian states in the general elections next summer.

"A misconception has been created by some that BJP is a north Indian party; it’s a party of Hindi speaking states," he said, addressing supporters at the party’s headquarters in New Delhi.

Amid the euphoria surrounding the election results, BJP now faces an arduous task of proving its majority in the assembly, if it is invited by the state governor Vajubhai Vala to form the government.

To make things difficult for Modi’s party, Congress and Janata Dal Secular yesterday closed ranks in a dramatic political realignment and requested the governor that they be allowed to form the next government.

“We expect Karnataka governor to invite Janata Dal Secular-Cong coalition which has clear majority to form government in the state,” Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala said.

“As per constitutional and legal provisions, the governor has no option but to invite the coalition.”

The governor, who is the envoy of the president of India, enjoys the right under the constitution to decide who will get the first shot at proving their strength on the floor of the house.

Despite the political uncertainty looming the state after the split vote, the results are seen as a serious blow to Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s efforts to galvanise the party ahead of the general elections.

"Karnataka has shown that 2019 will be Modi versus nobody," said Sheshadri Chari, a BJP member.

On his part, Mr Gandhi yesterday thanked the people of Karnataka who voted for Congress, saying the party will fight for them.

“Thank you also to our workers and leaders for their dedication and untiring hard work in support of the party,’ he said on Twitter.