New Delhi, May 26: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won the Karnataka Assembly elections on Sunday, but fell short of a majority by three seats, is now actively wooing independents in a bid to realise its dream of forming its first government in South India.
The BJP secured 110 seats, three short of a majority in the 224-strong Assembly in an election in which the Congress improved on its previous performance by bagging 80 seats. According to sources, the party is banking on the support from two of its rebels - Shivaraj Thangadagi (Kanakagiri), Gulahatti Shekhar (Hosadurga)- who have won as Independents. Even Venkataramanappa (Cong) winner from Pavagada (Tumkur), Sudhakara (Ind) from Hiriyuru and Narendra Swami (Ind) from Malavalli have acceeded their support to the BJP govt
Meanwhile, the BJP's chief ministerial candidate, B S Yeddyurappa, will leave for Delhi tonight to hold talks with the party's central leaders.
Yeddyurappa, who suffered the ignominy of the shortest serving Chief Minister for seven days last year, will be formally elected leader of the BJP legislature party today.
Later, he will meet Governor Rameshwar Thakur to stake a claim to form the next government in the state.
Sixty-six-year old Yeddyurappa is expected to take oath as the new Chief Minister on May 28.
Karnataka is presently under President's Rule.
Buoyed by the victory, the BJP leadership has said that the latest result has made the party a 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 the Congress and the JD (S) did not field a candidate in a bid to defeat the BJP leader. Both his sons, Madhu and Kumar, were however, defeated.
The BJP's performance is significant as it put up a good show in virtually all regions of the state, except some pockets in southern Karnataka, considered a stronghold of the JD (S).
The victory was a revenge of sorts for the BJP, which had the ignominy of heading a seven-day government after flip-flops in its ties with JD (S). 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.