Bengaluru, May 15: Counting of votes for the Karnataka Assembly Election 2018 is to be held today. Even the scorching heat and sporadic showers later in the day in some constituencies could not deter the electorate who came out in droves to vote, registering the biggest turnout ever at 72.13 percent. Repolling was held on Monday in polling booth number 20 and 21 in Kushtagi assembly constituency and Hebbala constituency’s Lottagollanahalli booth number 2. The Assembly election was held to 222 of the 224 seats; polling to Bengaluru’s Raja Rajeshwari (RR) Nagar seat has been postponed to May 28 and has been countermanded in Jayanagar due to the death of BJP candidate and sitting MLA BN Vijaya Kumar.

The Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018 counting of votes will begin at 8 AM today and the first trends are expected to be out by 8.30 AM. Security has been tightened and prohibitory orders put in place from Monday evening and would be in force till Tuesday midnight. At least 100 security personnel have been deployed at each counting centre and entry has been made limited to those who have authorisation. Candidates have been barred from the celebration of any kind at polling booths.

Campaigning in the state reached a feverish pitch with political heavyweights making an appearance to canvass for their respective parties. While the Congress got the almost reclusive Sonia Gandhi to hold rallies in the last few days, BJP brought out its entire array of star campaigners, beginning from party chief Amit Shah, Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Union Ministers and even Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states, like Yogi Adityanath and Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

Experts say higher voting percentage in the four districts of the old Mysuru region, a stronghold of the JD (S), points to the revival of its fortunes as it most likely will play a crucial role in the formation of the next government, in the event of a hung verdict. Banking on its traditional bastions of coastal, central (Malnad) and northwest areas, the BJP is confident of winning on the popularity of Narendra Modi and its chief ministerial nominee BS Yeddyurappa, who belongs to the Lingayat community that dominates the region.

The ruling Congress, which has a strong presence in the northern and southern regions, is betting on its five-year stable government, several welfare schemes for the poor, minorities, backward classes, Dalits and women, to retain power.

Making light of the verdict of exit polls, most of which gave a favourable verdict to the BJP, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah chose to call them entertainment and claimed the Congress would retain power.  “We are coming back,” he tweeted. For someone who has been calling himself the Congress chief minister candidate throughout the process, by Monday, he was saying that he was willing to give up the post for a Dalit candidate.

On the other hand, Yeddyurappa said the BJP would get a clear majority and ruled out a hung verdict. “I have seen the exit polls on various channels. The BJP will form the majority government on Tuesday and the Congress will exit from Karnataka. There is no question of joining hands with anyone,” he insisted.  JD(S) president HD Kumaraswamy also maintained that his party would be the king and not kingmaker to form the next government with the support of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Independents. However, reports later on Monday suggested the JD(S) would back the Congress only if it chose a Dalit as the Chief Minister.