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BJP wins Karnataka state poll
BANGALORE (Reuters) - The Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the state election in Karnataka on Sunday, extending a winning streak ahead of a national vote due by early 2009.
The BJP victory surprised many pollsters and analysts and was another blow for the centre-left Congress party, which leads the ruling coalition at the Centre.
The BJP won 110 of 224 seats, the state election commission said -- its first outright win in one of India's four southern states. It caps a string of recent state wins.
Congress won only 80 seats, the final results showed, and conceded defeat.
Venkaiah Naidu, a senior BJP leader, said voters had tired of the Congress because of rising inflation, bomb attacks in Indian cities and debt problems faced by Indian farmers.
"I am very happy that we have come to power in the south. This will galvanise the party for the general elections," he told reporters in Bangalore, the state capital.
"I don't think the Congress will dare go for early elections with these kind of defeats in several states."
The BJP lost to Congress in 2004 general elections amid a backlash over economic reforms but also due to its weakness in the south. The party, which had traditionally done well only in northern states, has been hoping to use a win in Karnataka to widen its geographical reach.
The last state elections in 2004 did not produce an outright winner and the parties squabbled until New Delhi took charge of Karnataka last year, in what is known as president's rule.
Political analyst Amulya Ganguly said the Congress defeat meant it was unlikely to rush into an early national election.
"The Congress fails to give a very clear picture of what it wants to do, what it's about," he said. "When it comes to its policies it doesn't seem certain of anything."
The software and outsourcing industries in Bangalore are hoping a single-party government will speed up glacial progress in improving the city's overstretched infrastructure.
"I would like to concede defeat on behalf of the Congress," said S.M. Krishna, the party's main campaigner. "It is a disappointment ... I hope they do a good job taking care of the interests of the state without dividing the state on religious lines."
Karnataka's Muslims make up about 12 percent of the state's population, a similar proportion as in the whole of India. Some worry that the BJP may not have their interests at heart. The party did not field any Muslim candidates.
B.S. Yeddyurappa, a BJP politician who paints himself as a champion of farmers, is set to become the state's chief minister. He was chief minister for barely a week before his coalition government fell.
"My top priority will be the development of Karnataka. Special priority will also be given to the development of Bangalore," Yeddyurappa said at a victory rally in the city.
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