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Bhajan holds key, will drive hard bargain

india Updated: Oct 23, 2009 00:32 IST
Pankaj Vohra
Pankaj Vohra
Hindustan Times
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Former chief minister Bhajan Lal’s Haryana Janhit Congress may hold the key to formation of a stable government in the state with the Congress falling short of a simple majority in the 90-member House.

The Janhit Congress has six seats, enough to enable the formation of the government. But the question is whether Bhajan Lal will allow arch enemy Bhupinder Singh Hooda to become chief minster once again or make peace with his original party and bargain for deputy chief ministership for his younger son, Kuldeep Bishnoi.

The Congress will face a dilemma in case Bhajan Lal offers support only if Hooda is removed.

First, Hooda has broken the 40-year-old jinx of an incumbent government not returning to power after serving a full term. Second, there does not seem an alternative to him in the party, with his main detractor, Birendra Singh, having lost to Om Prakash Chautala.

There is little scope for anyone winning a bye-election in the near future. The risk is too big. So, a non-MLA will certainly get ruled out on this ground. The only others who could be considered for the job are Captain Ajay Yadav (an Ahir) and Mahendra Pratap (a Gujjar). Both have won for the fifth time.

But this could lead to consolidation of the Jat voters behind Chautala, whose party has made a remarkable comeback after everyone had written it off.

Chautala is also working overtime in a bid to form an alternative government. After all, the six or seven Independents could go with whoever seems likeliest to form the government. In this scenario, a stable government in Haryana cannot be a certainty and the Congress may prefer an alliance with Bhajan Lal.

The setback for the Congress may have shocked its supporters but it is not surprising, given that the voter turnout was close to 73 per cent. A high turnout is usually indicative of a change and voters seem to have decided not to let Hooda and the Congress become over-confident.

As a result, nearly six of Hooda’s ministers have lost and in two large segments — Sirsa and Jind, the Congress has been wiped out. Many Jats have voted for Chautala, denying Hooda the status of being the tallest Jat leader in Haryana.

The Congress tally could have been worse if the Opposition had not been so badly divided. In that sense, Hooda succeeded in ensuring that all parties contested separately.

But politics can create strange situations and Hooda’s continuation will depend on how strongly the Congress high command backs him and how it bargains with Bhajan Lal. There is also the possibility of Hooda garnering the numbers by himself. Haryana could be in for a period of political uncertainty if no post-poll alliance crystalises to enable formation of the next government.