Even senior Chandigarh, HARYANA—After the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) performed below expectations in Haryana, winning 40 out of 90 assembly seats, it had been trying to woo independent MLAs to try and cross the magic number of 46, which would allow it to form a government.
Now, news reports say that the BJP has garnered the support of at least five, and possibly all eight, independent MLAs from the state.
Sirsa MLA Gopal Kanda, who is accused of abetting the suicide of air hostess Geetika Sharma, who was working at his aviation company, in 2012, was among the first to announce his unconditional support for the party. Since then, BJP has been drawing flak for siding with Kanda, whom it once protested against.
Even senior BJP leader Uma Bharti has disagreed publicly with her party, tweeting that the party “should not forget its moral foundation”.
Ranjit Singh, who contested independently from Rania after being denied ticket by the Congress, has also offered support to BJP yesterday.
With two names solidly behind it, BJP needs only four more MLAs, which does not seem to be a Herculean task for the Amit Shah-led saffron party.
According to news reports, the other MLAs who have extended support to BJP are Balraj Kundu from Meham, Nayan Pal Rawat from Prithla, Randhir Singh Gollen from Pundri, Gokul Setia from Sirsa, Ranjit Singh from Rania and Rakesh Daultabad from Badshahpur .
Another BJP dissident leader, Sombir, contested independently after the BJP gave a ticket to wrestler Babita Phogat. Sombir defeated Phogat by 14,000 votes.
Initially, there were reports that BJP was forming an alliance with the Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janshakti party (JJP) which recorded a meteoric rise by winning 10 seats within just a year of its formation.
However, with Chautala in no mood to settle for less than the Chief minister’s post, BJP had no choice but to look elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Congress leader and Haryana’s former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who was also unable to form an alliance with JJP, has now urged all parties to join hands against BJP.
For Congress to form a government in Haryana would be like herding cats at the moment. Together, the Congress and JJP will only bring together 41 MLAs, leaving it five short. Congress will hold a meeting in Delhi on Friday to plan its future course of action.
The big story in Haryana, undoubtedly, is the rise of Hooda. Just a month ago, he was not even the state party chief or opposition leader. It was only after he gave a fiery speech in Rohtak in favour of the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir and warned the Congress leadership of dire political consequences if he wasn’t given charge that he was brought back into the political battle.
While the BJP remains the single largest political party in the state, its graph has actually gone down. Except for CM Manohar Lal Khattar, Anil Vij and Banwari Lal, the entire cabinet was defeated in the elections.
In another setback, BJP state chief Subhash Barala also resigned after failing to win from the Tohana assembly seat and for not ensuring a majority win for the party. Barala’s political graph took a steep dip after his son Vikas Barala was accused in the alleged stalking of Varnika Kundu, a Panchkula-based disc jockey. The trial has been proceeding at a slow pace due to multiple adjournments.
BJP also fielded three sports stars, hoping to cash in on their celebrity status—India’s former Hockey captain Sandeep Singh and wrestlers Phogat and Yogeshwar Dutt. Only Singh could defeat his Congress rival.
TikTok star Sonali Phogat, who had received much media attention, also lost to Congress leader Kuldeep Bishnoi.
The major reason for BJP’s poor show is reported to be its failure to consolidate non-Jat votes and low turnout in urban areas, considered to be the stronghold of BJP. Its insistence on highlighting national issues such as Article 370, instead of local issues such as unemployment and the water crisis, also went against it.