This month's polls to fill the state legislature in India's Karnataka state, results for which were announced last week, carried unusual interest not just for Indians but also for all who are interested in the twists and turns of this complicated nation led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The election in the southern province, whose capital Bangalore is the nation's No. 1 centre for the proliferating outsourcing industry, tested not just the charismatic Mr Modi's drawing power but also the political future of his presumed principal challenger in the national election due by next May, Mr Rahul Gandhi of the Indian National Congress party. Karnataka was one of the few big states controlled by Congress, once the party of Freedom.
In the event, the polls threw up a fractured verdict despite frenetic campaigning by all major parties involved, and the highest voter turnout recorded since 1952. The state assembly has 224 seats and Congress previously held 122 of those. This time, it won 78, a drop of more than a third. Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party surged from 40 seats in 2013 to 104, while a third formation led by the Janata Dal (Secular) took 39 seats, a loss of one seat from what it previously held. Anxious to deny the BJP a breakthrough in southern India and eager to curb its enlarging national footprint, the Congress pledged support to the JD (S) and both groups swiftly bussed their legislators to a neighbouring state to prevent defections.