Congress stakes claim to form govt in Haryana

7 independents roped in to muster majority; Hooda rivals want Selja as CM

Congress stakes claim to form govt in Haryana

Congress workers celebrate party's win in the Haryana assembly elections in Faridabad on Thursday. PTI

A late evening meeting of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) called to elect the party leader in the Assembly left the choice to AICC president Sonia Gandhi. After individually meeting party MLAs, Congress general secretary in charge of Haryana affairs, Prithviraj Chavan, told reporters that the legislators unanimously passed a resolution leaving the decision on a chief ministerial candidate to the party chief.

Chavan refused to answer questions about the fate of incumbent Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and whether he would be asked to continue. “I cannot say anything on that,” Chavan said, accompanied by two other Central observers, Mohsina Kidwai and B K Hari Prasad. Five of the nine Congress Lok Sabha MPs from the state also participated in the deliberations to elect a new leader. Union Minister Kumari Selja, among the claimants for the post of chief minister, was conspicuous by her absence.

Congress sources said it would be a tough task for Hooda to get the nod for the second time after the party failed to secure a simple majority in the 90-member Assembly, a result perceived as shocking for the party which was expected to steamroll through the fragmented opposition and was tipped to secure a landslide verdict.

Earlier in the day, state Congress president Phool Chand Mullana called on the Governor, armed with the support of seven independents, to formally stake claim to form the next government. The Congress had fallen six short of the majority mark and needed the support of independents.

The party leadership has also been exploring support from the Haryana Janhit Congress, a breakaway faction of the party headed by Bhajan Lal and his son Kuldeep Bishnoi, which won six seats this time.

In the elections to the 90-member Assembly, the electorate gave a fractured verdict, with the Congress winning 40 seats, the Indian National Lok Dal of Omprakash Chautala securing 31, the HJC six, the BJP four and the BSP two seats. The remaining seven seats were won by the independents.

INLD leader Om Prakash Chautala shot off a letter to the Governor on Friday, seeking his intervention to stop alleged horse-trading indulged in by the Congress.

He said the Congress should not be invited to form the government as it had lost the mandate to rule after failing to secure a simple majority.

HJC support

In another development, HJC president Kuldeep Bishnoi said in Delhi that his party had decided to support any government that would be formed in the state. “The party MLAs decided that we will not sit in opposition and will extend issue-based support to any new government,” he said.

Political observers are viewing his statement as significant since Bishnoi and his father Bhajan Lal may not support a Congress-government led by Hooda whom they find unacceptable after Lal, then state Congress chief, was ignored for the chief minister’s post in the 2005 Assembly polls despite leading the Conggress to victory then.

This could be a signal to the party that the HJC might extend support to a Congress government minus Hooda.

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