Bengaluru: Counting of votes for the Karnataka Assembly elections began this morning, in what is expected to be a nail biting finish, with most of the exit polls predicting a hung assembly.
In one of the most high-profile and bitterly fought elections in the recent times, a total of 222 of the 224 seats went for polls involving a three-cornered contest between the ruling Congress, the BJP and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda's party Janata Dal (Secilar) or JD(S).
The polling percentage in the May 12 elections has been put at 72.13 per cent.
It would be clear post noon whether the voters in Karnataka have given their verdict decisively as being claimed by the political parties, or for a hung assembly as projected by a majority of the post-poll surveys.
The counting began today at 38 counting centres across the state, amid high security.
In case of a clear verdict in favour of the Congress, the grand old party will have broken the jinx of no political party retaining the reins of the state since 1985, when the erstwhile Janata Dal formed the government under Ramakrishna Hegde for a second consecutive term.
While a victory would help boost the sagging morale of the Congress, which is on a downhill journey losing state after state since Narendra Modi came to power at the Centre in 2014, defeat in Karnataka, the only big state it rules apart from Punjab, may further slowdown the momentum for the party.
Losing Karnataka will also drastically weaken its claim for the leadership of a broader anti-BJP alliance that is being talked about ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
In case the BJP gets the mandate, it reflects the enduring charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his capacity to power his party to victory across the country, clearing demographic and topographical obstacles, in combination with party president Amit Shah's strategy.
It would also further galvanise the BJP cadre before the Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh later this year.
The JD(S) has also claimed it would win a majority and that its chief ministerial candidate HD Kumaraswamy will be the "king" and not the "kingmaker".
The party may or may not win the elections, but will play the kingmaker if the electorate gives a split verdict, making Deve Gowda an important player in the state politics once again.
With the JD(S) having had partnered with both BJP and Congress in the past, it would be tough to predict which way it will go this time in the event of a hung assembly.