Friday, May 25, 2018

India's BJP heads to majority in key poll

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Election leads from the south Indian state of Karnataka show India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is ahead of the Congress party which currently rules the state.

The BJP is ahead in 111 of 209 seats for which leads are available, according to the Election Commission.

The polls are being treated as a bellwether ahead of general elections in 2019.

Analysts believe that a loss would spell disaster for the Congress party.

The party rules only three other states apart from Karnataka while the BJP and its allies are in power in 22 of India's 29 states.

The BJP's performance has defied exit poll results which predicted a hung assembly. It needs to win 112 seats to form the government.

The Congress is leading in 58 seats, while the regional Janata Dal (Secular), is ahead in 37 seats.

More than 72% of the voters cast their ballots for 222 seats on Saturday.

Counting of votes began early Tuesday morning. The final verdict is expected later in the day.

Karnataka is the hub of India's information technology industry and has a population of 64 million.

Why is the election important?

The polls in Karnataka are being treated as a bellwether ahead of scheduled national elections in 2019.

Both Mr Modi and Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, travelled across the state, addressing huge rallies.

Who are the key players?

The Congress' candidate is Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah, who is running for re-election. He led his party to a huge victory in 2013, winning 121.

"We are going to secure 120 plus seats (in the 224-member assembly)," Mr Siddaramaiah told BBC Hindi's Imran Qureshi before the poll. "I am 100% confident because I am the chief minister."

BS Yeddyurappa, the BJP's candidate, was equally confident of winning - "There is no doubt that I will be sworn in as chief minister on May 17," he told BBC Hindi.

He led the BJP to power the first time they won in Karnataka in 2008 and served as chief minister.

The Janata Dal (Secular), a key regional party that has given the state two chief ministers in the past, could emerge as an important player after the poll.

The party is led by HD Deve Gowda, who was the prime minister of India from 1994 to 1996.

What were the key poll issues?

The powerful Lingayat community, a Hindu sect that comprises 17% of the state's population, was expected to play a decisive role in the elections.

It has traditionally voted for the BJP but that might change this time. A section of the community has been demanding that the sect be identified as a separate religion, distinct from Hinduism.

Mr Siddaramaiah's administration has declared the community a separate religion and expects to split their vote as a result.

The chief minister has also taken controversial decisions such as proposing a flag for the state and emphasising the use of the local Kannada language.

Apart from the state's water crisis and lawlessness, corruption is also a key issue.

Mr Yeddyurappa himself resigned from his post as chief minister in 2012 amid allegations that he abused his power.

An anti-corruption report in 2011 had indicted him in a mining scandal that cost the exchequer more than $3bn (£2.2bn).

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