Sending out a powerful signal for change, Karnataka has voted the Bharatiya Janata Party out of power while giving the Congress an unambiguous mandate to rule, with 121 seats in the 224-strong Legislative Assembly (polling for one seat was countermanded due to the death of a candidate).

The defeat of the BJP in the only south Indian State where it had managed to establish a solid presence marks a stunning reversal for a party that has tried hard to grow beyond the Hindi-speaking areas of the country.

The BJP, which was elected to power in 2008 with 110 seats, won only 40 seats this time. While the Congress, which had won just 80 seats in the May 2008 Assembly elections, increased its tally by 41, an unexpected but significant outcome of these elections is the strong showing by the Janata Dal (Secular), led by former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy. The JD(S), which upped its tally to 40 (from 28 in 2008) shares the second spot with the BJP. The Karnataka Janata Paksha, a BJP-breakaway headed by B.S. Yeddyurappa won in six constituencies, falling far short of its own double digit expectation. Another BJP-breakaway, the Badavara Shramikara Raitara Congress of B.S. Sriramulu, an associate of the Reddy mining barons from Bellary, won in four seats. The remaining 12 constituencies were won by Independents.

Some of the prominent winners are the outgoing Chief Minister, Jagadish Shettar, from Hubli Central; Siddaramaiah, a Congress frontrunner for Chief Minister, from Varuna in Mysore district; Mr. Yeddyurappa from Shikaripura in Shimoga district; and Mr. Kumaraswamy from Ramanagara.

Among the high-profile candidates who lost are Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president and chief ministerial aspirant G. Parameshwara from Koratagere in Tumkur district; the outgoing Deputy Chief Minister, K.S. Eswarappa, from Shimoga City; Anita Kumaraswamy, wife of Mr. Kumaraswamy in Kanakapura (defeated by C.P. Yogeshwar, a former BJP Minister who contested on the Samajwadi Party ticket); and Shobha Karandlaje, a former minister and close associate of Mr. Yeddyurappa, in Rajajinagar, Bangalore.

Accepting the party’s defeat, Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar submitted his resignation to Governor H.R. Bhardwaj on Wednesday evening. Mr. Shettar will continue as caretaker Chief Minister till the new Chief Minister is sworn in.

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