As votes were counted for the elections held Sunday, the Bharatiya Janata Party appeared set for a humiliating rout in the state where it took power five years ago -- relegated to the third spot.
In contrast, the Congress headed for triumph. Congress workers celebrated wildly in Bangalore, bursting firecrackers.
Congress strongman in Karnataka Siddharamiah was sanguine in victory. "It was only expected," said the man who could be the next chief minister.
Added BJP leader and former chief minister Sadanand Gowda soberly: "We have not been able to rise to the occasion. We could not reach out to the voter with whatever development work we did in Karnataka."
According to the latest trends available, the Congress could win 118 seats, comfortably over the halfway mark of 112.
The BJP, which has seen three chief ministers in five years and found itself split right down the middle with B.S. Yeddyurappa forming his own party, was way behind with 36 seats.
Even the Janata Dal-S (JD-S) was ahead with 41 seats. And Yeddyurappa's Karnataka Janata Party (KJP), who left the BJP amid allegations of corruption, made its political debut with an estimated 14 seats.
It was a reversal of fortunes of sorts for the two main parties - the Congress, readying for power in Bangalore, is on the backfoot in New Delhi as the BJP demands the resignations of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as well as union ministers Pawan Kumar Bansal and Ashwani Kumar.
For the Congress, battling an opposition offensive over graft charges in New Delhi, the victory was just what it needed to get a morale boost ahead of the general elections in 2014.
Said Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi: "We are winning because people have seen through and rejected the BJP."
For the BJP, the election result was a sharp fall from five years ago when it won 110 seats and formed its first government in the south with the help of five independents.
The rout saw deputy chief minister K.S. Eshwarappa, trailing in his home constituency in Shimoga along with Law Minister S. Suresh Kumar in Rajajinagar in Bangalore and Muruegesh Nirani in Bilagi in north Karnataka.
The party lost badly both in rural and urban areas. A sorry scenario because it had hoped to make Karnataka the base to make a major breakthrough into south India.
Said the party's Rajiv Pratap Rudy: "We have lost the election. And it is time for introspection."
JD-S leader H.D. Kumaraswamy, who had hoped perhaps to be kingmaker, said he was happy to be the main opposition.
"We will be happy to be the main opposition in Karnataka. We will play our role well. The Congress is not going to come to us seeking our help, we know that," the former chief minister said.
The assembly has 224 elected and one nominated members. The election took place Sunday for 223 seats as election was cancelled in one constituency after the BJP candidate died.
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