Bangalore, May 25 : The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday stormed to power for the first time in south India, winning the Karnataka assembly elections but fell short of a majority by three seats.
The BJP secured 110 seats, three short of a majority in the 224-strong assembly in an election in which Congress improved on its previous performance bagging 80 seats.
Sixty-six-year old B S Yeddyurappa, who suffered the ignominy of the shortest serving Chief Minister for seven days last year, is expected to take oath as the new Chief Minister on May 28.
The BJP legislature party meeting has been called in Bangalore on Monday to elect Yeddyurappa as its leader after which he will meet Governor Rameshwar Thakur to stake a claim to form the next government in the state. Karnataka is presently under President's Rule.
Buoyed by the victory, BJP leadership said it has made the party the frontrunner in the race for power in the next coming Lok Sabha elections.
The JD(S), which enjoyed power in the company of both the Congress and the BJP and pulled the rug from under the saffron party's feet last November, suffered heavily securing only 28 seats, 30 less than in 2004.
The BJP, whose 18 MLAs were responsible for ushering in the first non-Congress government in Karnataka in 1983 under late Ramakrishna Hegde, was the single largest party in the 2004 elections too. It had then secured 79 seats while Congress got 65.
The saffron surge consumed several Congress heavyweights, including former Chief Minister N Dharam Singh, R V Deshpande and actor Ambarish, and also swept aside fringe players like BSP, SP, JD(U) and local Kannada Chalavali Party, which all drew a blank. Others, including a lone CPI(M) winner, accounted for the remaining seats.
Yeddyurappa tasted personal victory worsting former Chief Minister S Bangarappa, who had never lost an assembly election, in Shikaripura where Congress and JD(S) did not field a candidate in a bid to defeat the BJP leader. Both his sons Madhu and Kumar were defeated.
BJP's performance was significant as it put up a good show in virtually all the regions except some pockets in southern Karnataka, considered a stronghold of JD(S).
The victory was a revenge of sorts for BJP which had the ignominy of heading a seven-day government after flip-flops in its ties with JD(S) which pulled the rug from its under feet late last year.
Among the prominent winners were KPCC President M Mallikarjun Kharge, former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy of JD(S), his brother Revanna.
Congress's Mamata Nichhani, daughter of Ramakrishna Hegde was in the third position in the contest against Kumaraswamy. Former minister and Congress heavyweight R V Deshpande lost the Haliyal seat to JDS's Sunil Hegde by a margin of 5,425 votes.