All eyes are set on 224 assembly seats of Karnataka that went for polls on May 10, as counting of votes started at 8 am on Saturday amid tight security. The counting is being held at 36 centres across the State, in which 2,615 candidates are in the fray.
"The counting of votes will start at 8.00 am across 36 designated centres in the southern state," the Election Commission said before the counting.
A clear picture of the result is likely to emerge by noon.
This Assembly election carried much significance as it was held almost a year before the 2024 general elections. The election witnessed an aggressive battle between the Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress, and the Janata Dal (Secular) or JD (S).
Apart from the magic figure of 113 seats out of 224 Assembly seats, here is what you need to know ahead of the counting. Voting for Karnataka assembly polls 2023 concluded on Wednesday evening.
According to the Election Commission (EC), Karnataka recorded a 73.19 per cent voter turnout in the May 10 assembly elections, the highest-ever voter turnout in the southern state.
Polling was held across 58,545 polling stations to elect the members in the 224-seat Karnataka Legislative Assembly. The majority mark needed to form the government is 113.
Earlier on Friday, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai exuded confidence in Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) return to power in Karnataka. "There is no chance of a hung Assembly, we are going to form the government comfortably. Let him (DK Shivakumar) be happy with his 141 seats till tomorrow. We will have a legislature party meeting to decide the Chief Ministerial face," Chief Minister Bommai told reporters.
M Basavaraj Bommai on Friday held a key meeting with top Bharatiya Janata Party leaders from the state. The meeting was held at the residence of former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa in Bengaluru.
Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar also met with party president Mallikarjun Kharge at his residence in Bengaluru and held discussions on the party's strategy once the results are declared.
"Exit polls have their own theory. We do not go by those samples, my sample size is too high and in that, we will have a comfortable majority. I do not know about JDS, let them take their own call. I do not have any backup plan, my only plan is that the Congress party will come to power," Shivakumar told ANI.
Congress general secretary in-charge Communications Jairam Ramesh said that BJP's defeat in Karnataka will open Delhi's door for Congress in 2024. "Congress' victory in Karnataka is Prime Minister Narendra Modi's defeat because no one campaigned in Karnataka except him.
After (BJP's) Karnataka's defeat, Delhi's door is open for Congress in 2024. During the Bharat Jodo Yatra, we were there for 27 days in Karnataka and visited seven districts. We do not have any doubt. We will get majority votes. We have promised five guarantees in our manifesto and because of these guarantees Congress is guaranteed to win," said Jairam Ramesh.
He also ruled out the possibility of a coalition government in Karnataka with the JDS. "I am absolutely sure that JDS will disintegrate... This time I do not think that there is any scope for a coalition government with JDS," added the Congress veteran.
The Janata Dal (Secular) national spokesperson Tanveer Ahmed on Friday said that they have already decided which party they would support in forming the government after the results are declared.
Speaking to ANI, Ahmed said, "We have already decided with whom we are going to form the government. We will announce it to the public when the appropriate time comes.
"Former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Thursday expressed confidence that the Bharatiya Janata Party would secure an absolute majority and return to power for a second term to form government in the southern state.
Speaking to ANI, Yediyurappa said, "I am 100 per cent confident that the BJP will secure an absolute majority and form the government". His response came after exit polls predicted Congress's edge over the BJP in Karnataka polls. The BJP leader refuted any possibility of a hung assembly.
With exit polls giving Congress an edge over the BJP in the Karnataka Assembly elections, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said that the BJP will come to power with a "comfortable majority" as he was confident with the party's ground reports.
"All the exit polls predicted that Yogi Adityanath will not come back but he came back in Uttar Pradesh. Last time, they (exit polls) predicted only 80 seats for BJP and 107 for Congress but it came reverse... We are confident with our ground reports and we will come with a comfortable majority," Bommai told ANI on Thursday.
On a question about forming an alliance with JD(S), in case the party falls short of a majority, he said, "At that time, National leadership is going to take a decision. The question does not arise. I am certain that the party will get 115-117 seats".
Congress is expected to have a clear edge in Karnataka in the assembly elections held on Wednesday with four exit polls giving it a full majority and some predicting a hung assembly with an advantage to the party.
A few exit polls also said that BJP is ahead and is likely to form the government.
The exit polls, which were released after the polling ended in Karnataka, predicted that Janata Dal-Secular JD(S) would not touch the 37 seats it won in the 2018 polls but would continue to be a strong regional player in the state. If Karnataka throws up a hung assembly, the JD-S could emerge as the kingmaker.
According to India Today-Axis My India exit poll, Congress is poised to win a comfortable majority with 122-140 seats, BJP will get 62-80 seats, JD(S) 20-25 and others 0-3 seats.
A party needs 113 seats for a majority in the 224-member Karnataka assembly.
The poll of polls shows an advantage for the Congress with the party poised to win 109 seats, BJP 91 seats and JD-S 23.
News24-Today's Chanakya predicted Congress crossing the halfway mark. It said BJP is poised to win 92 seats, Congress, 120 and JD-S 12 seats. With top leadership including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah campaigning for the party, BJP put all its might to strengthen its support base.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed 19 public meetings and held six roadshows. Amit Shah held 16 public rallies and 14 roadshows. BJP chief JP Nadda held 10 public meetings and 16 roadshows.
Hectic electioneering by leaders of various political parties saw BJP allowing Union Ministers and Chief Ministers to campaign with their full force while Congress putting its chief ministers including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as star campaigners.
The Congress on the other hand worked hard to wrest power from the BJP that is striving to break the 38-year-old pattern of alternating governments and retain its power in the state.
In the 2018 assembly elections, the BJP emerged as the single-largest party by winning 104 seats. Congress had bagged 80 seats and the JDS) got 37 seats. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) the Karnataka Pragyavantha Janata Party (KPJP) managed get one seat each. There was also an independent member.