Hat-trick of fractured mandates or clear verdict in Karnataka?

Bangalore, May 7 (IANS) India will know Wednesday if Karnataka scores a hat-trick of fractured mandates or gets a clear verdict as votes polled Sunday in perhaps the most keenly watched assembly elections in the state are counted.

Over 71 percent of the 40.36 million eligible voters cast their ballots Sunday and counting would start at 8 a.m. Wednesday in 36 centres across the state.

Since electronic voting machines (EVMs) were used for polling, most of the results should be out by noon, say state election authorities.

Polling took place for 223 of the 224 elected seats in the 225-member assembly that includes one member nominated to represent the Anglo-Indian community.

In Periayapatna constituency in Mysore, polling has been rescheduled for month-end following the death of the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate.

The election of Karnataka's 14th assembly caught national attention as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was mired in corruption scandals in the state while its main challenger, the Congress, was fighting similar problem at the central level.

The Congress is upbeat that it will return to power on its own in Karnataka after six years in oposition, dislodging the BJP in the only southern state it for the first time managed to come to power in May 2008.

"We will form the government on our own," assert state Congress chief G. Parameshwara and his party colleague Siddaramaiah, both chief ministerial aspirants.

They discount the possibility of the party falling short of majority mark of 113 by a few seats, as forecast by some exit polls telecast Sunday.

However, in private, several Congress leaders say the party is keeping all options open if it fails to secure a clear verdict.

The BJP is not accepting, at least in public yet, that it is all over for the party in view of corruption scandals and infighting which forced three chief ministers on the state in just over four years of BJP rule.

Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar and state BJP chief Pralhad Joshi claim the party has been able to overcome the impact of corruption scandals that marred the first three years of its rule under B.S. Yeddyurappa, who was forced to quit in July 2011 over mining bribery charges.

The Janata Dal-Secular, another contender for power, is also entertaining hopes of ruling the state on its own or at least garner enough seats to be in a position to dictate terms to whoever needs its support to form the government.

Even the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) headed by Yeddyurappa talks of bagging clear majority.

The state electorate had delivered a fractured verdict in 2004 leading two coalition governments -- Congress and JD-S, followed by JD-S and BJP.

In the 2008 polls, the BJP won only 110 seats and crossed the majority mark of 113 with the support of five Independents.

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