July 23, 2019 / 2:36 PM / 2 months ago

Indian PM Modi's party wins confidence vote in key southern state

FILE PHOTO - India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks with the media on the opening day of the parliament session in New Delhi, India, June 17, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was set to return to power in the southern state of Karnataka after narrowly defeating its arch-rival Congress in a confidence vote on Tuesday.

Karnataka, home to India’s tech hub of Bengaluru, is the only one of India’s five southern states where Modi’s Hindu nationalist party has held office.

“The people of the state have expressed confidence in us. We will give them an administration that is trustworthy and visionary,” said J.C. Madhuswamy, a BJP lawmaker in Karnataka.

Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, a member of Congress’s ally Janata Dal (Secular), submitted his resignation to state Governor Vajubhai Vala, who accepted it and asked him to carry on in a caretaker capacity until the BJP took over.

More than a dozen legislators from Congress’s coalition quit earlier this month, triggering a majority test in the state assembly. Both sides traded allegations of bribing legislators to secure their support.

Congress said the outcome was a defeat for democracy. “Karnataka has lost due to the conspiracy of anti-constitution, anti-democratic BJP,” it said in a statement.

The BJP has been trying to widen its support base beyond the north and west of India, and Karnataka is seen as a beachhead for advancing into a south long dominated by regional parties.

Congress, which has suffered a leadership crisis ever since Rahul Gandhi resigned as party chief earlier this month, faces further marginalization following the loss of Karnataka.

The BJP won the confidence vote by a margin of six votes in the 225-member Karnataka state assembly, a live telecast of the vote showed.

Reporting by Chandini Monnappa and Derek Francis in Bengaluru; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Mark Heinrich

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