Voter in Haryana on Thursday delivered a fractured verdict, triggering frantic parleys by the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) for forming the government.
The Congress is six short of a simple majority but is within striking distance of power with 40 seats in the 90-member assembly. It can still form the government but with the help of others.
The key to power rests with former CM Bhajan Lal’s Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC), which has won six seats, and seven Independents.
Top central leaders of the Congress were in touch with Lal and his son Kuldeep Bishnoi, besides the Independents.
Om Prakash Chautala’s INLD is not far behind with 31 seats. Partner Shironmani Akali Dal has won one seat. Chautala has also thrown his hat in the ring, claiming support of the Independents.
“People have voted us to power and not for us to sit in the Opposition…,” he said.
The INLD will have to bring the HJC (BL) on its side with other non-Congress parties and most of the Independents for a shot at power. The Congress, on the other hand, is five short of the halfway mark and could do with support from the HJC (BL) alone or all the Independents or both.
Though the Congress leaders appear confident of bringing Lal on board, it’s not good news for Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Lal and his son Kuldeep Bishnoi are opposed to his continuation and are learnt to have conveyed it to the Congress. They have also sought two cabinet berths including the post of deputy CM.
Lal had led the Congress to power in the state in the 2005 polls, but Hooda got the top job.
Lal and Bishnoi then rebelled and floated HJC two years ago. “Our options are open. I have called a meeting of the party MLAs in Delhi tomorrow to decide our strategy,” Bishnoi told HT on Thursday.
Hooda and his strategists, who had opted for early polls after the Lok Sabha triumph, were hoping for a smooth ride benefiting from their “Number One Haryana” campaign, a splintered opposition contest and the absence of any obvious anti-incumbency factors.
They have now been left fumbling. The party has not only fallen short, many of its top leaders have lost.
Barring the three districts of Rohtak, Sonepat and Jhajjar, the party has slumped in most other areas.
The presence of a large number of disgruntled party leaders as rebels hurt the official nominees in about a dozen constituencies.
On the verge of being written off after its poor showing in three successive elections followed by desertions, the INLD has sprung a surprise. Chautala is not only bounced back but has also regained support among the Jats in Jind, Kaithal, Fatehabad and some other areas.
The party has also won seats in different parts of the state, besides doing exceptionally well in Jind and Sirsa districts.