Haryana’s fractured mandate sets off flurry of talks, BJP eyes independents

Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar of the BJP, JJP leader Dushyant Chautala, and Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Photos - PTI

A day after the Haryana Assembly election results emerged with a fractured mandate, with no single party reaching the majority mark of 46 in the 90-member House, attempts are being made both by the BJP and the Congress to woo prospective allies to form government.

While both the BJP and the Congress are trying to seek the support of the 10 MLAs of the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), reports say the BJP which needs six seats to form government, is also carrying out parallel negotiations with the seven independent MLAs to invite them to its fold.

According to reports Sirsa MLA Gopal Kanda and Rania MLA Ranjit Singh have already extended their support to the BJP and have taken a chartered flight to Delhi.

Reports say BJP leader Manohar Lal Khattar is also expected to meet the Haryana governor on Friday (October 25) to stake claim to form government.

JJP chief Dushyant Chautala, by now known as the ‘kingmaker’, who so far has remained non-committal on his pick, is slated to meet his 10 legislators in Delhi on Friday to decide on which party to support to form the next government, PTI reported.

BJP which won 40 seats was followed by the Congress with 31 seats and the JJP with 10 seats. Of the other nine seats, INLD and Haryana Lokhit Party took one each while the rest were bagged by seven independents.

The kingmaker’s call

Chautala is reported to have sought the chief minister’s post for his party.

While Chautala is also likely to meet Union Home Minister and BJP chief Amit Shah later in the day, it was reported that the Congress is also making efforts to have a meeting with him.

Sources also said that the BJP too would like to have him on board and make him an equal stakeholder in the state government as it would help reduce dependence on Independents, even though many of them are BJP rebels.

Commenting on the BJP’s performance on Thursday, Chautala had said, “This shows there was huge anti-incumbency against the (Manohar Lal) Khattar government.”

“It is too early to say anything. We will first summon a meeting of our MLAs, decide who would be our leader in the House and then take it further,” he had said.

However, the 31-year-old leader, who won Uchana Kalan seat by 47,452 votes over the sitting BJP MLA Prem Lata, said the people of Haryana want change.

Congress’s Bhupinder Singh Hooda was quick to react, saying JJP, INLD and others, including the Independents, should join hands with the Congress to keep the BJP at bay.

“This mandate is against the BJP,” he said even as trends were trickling in early in the day.

The two-time Haryana chief minister registered his highest victory margin in the elections, defeating BJP’s Satish Nandal from Gari Sampla Kiloi by a margin of 58,213 votes.

In the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP cornered 58 per cent of the vote share, which has now dropped to about 36.5 per cent. Despite the loss of seats, this is about three percentage points more than what the party got in the 2014 assembly polls.

The Congress vote share is up nearly eight percentage points since 2014. For the main opposition party, hit by infighting that required a change in the state leadership ahead of the October 21 election, the results gave it a shot at power if the JJP extends support.

BJP begins chase for MLAs

However, the BJP was in no mood to let up the state that borders the national capital. BJP president Amit Shah cancelled some meetings and called in chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who retained his Karnal seat by a margin of 45,188 votes against his Congress rival Tarlochan Singh.

According to latest reports, two of the seven Independent MLAs, who won the polls from Sirsa on Thursday (October 24), were taken to Delhi by a BJP MP, sources said.

Independents Gopal Kanda and Ranjeet Singh were taken to Delhi by a chartered plane by Sirsa MP Sunita Duggal.

While Kanda won from Sirsa, Singh, the brother of former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, won the Rania seat.

Late in the evening, addressing a victory meeting in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Khattar and his Maharashtra counterpart Devendra Fadnavis.

The BJP-Shiva Sena alliance had retained the state, although with a reduced margin as Congress-NCP combine put up a strong fight.

Opposition parties, however, termed the poll outcome as a “moral defeat” for the saffron party.

Turncoats dent BJP’s chances

A key factor that dented the BJP’s chances were the several turncoats it fielded.

Weeks ahead of the October 21 polls, several leaders, mostly sitting MLAs of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) had joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). And at the time of ticket distribution, the top BJP leadership preferred the turncoats over its loyal workers.

As a result, several miffed workers rebelled and entered the fray as independents which dented the traditional vote bank of the BJP and helped opposition parties like the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) and the Congress immensely. The BJP had denied tickets to 12 of its sitting legislators.

This also resulted in the defeat of eight BJP ministers in the assembly elections, which saw just two of the 10 ministers fielded by the ruling party.

Cabinet minister and five-time MLA Anil Vij retained his traditional bastion of Ambala Cantonment, whereas minister of state Dr Banwari Lal emerged victorious from Bawal.

Also read: Cong reaches out to Dushyant Chautala for post-poll alliance in Haryana

The minister who lost the elections are Ram Bilas Sharma (Mahendragarh), Capt Abhimanyu (Narnaund), Om Prakash Dhankar (Badli), Kavita Jain (Sonipat), Krishan Lal Panwar (Israna), Manish Kumar Grover (Rohtak), Krishan Kumar Bedi (Shahbad), and Karan Dev Kamboj (Radaur).

Lone woman minister in the Khattar cabinet, Kavita Jain, a three-time MLA, lost her traditional Sonipat seat to Surender Panwar of the Congress by a margin of over 32,000 votes.

Eight women will enter the Haryana Assembly. JJP’s Naina Chautala, mother of Dushyant Chauthala, won from Bardha seat. BJP’s Seema Trikha, Nirmal Rani, Kamlesh Dhanda,  Congress’s Geeta Bhukkal, Shakuntla Khatak, Shalley and Renu Bala were the other women winners.

Most exit polls had predicted a comfortable victory for the BJP, which came to power for the first time on its own in Haryana in 2014.

In the 2014 assembly elections, the BJP formed the government on its own, winning 47 seats.

The Congress had then won 17 seats, INLD 19, Shiromani Akali Dal one, Bahujan Samaj Party one and independents five. The BJP strength in the House later rose to 48 after it won a bypoll.