With about 48 Hours Left for Counting, BJP & Congress Gear Up for Himachal Cliffhanger, Woo Independents

With pollsters predicting a very close election result in Himachal Pradesh, both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress are opening backroom channels for independent candidates who may decide in a matter of photo finish.

While on record both the parties are claiming a clear verdict in their favour, their internal polls suggest a tough contest that may not yield a decisive winner. With barely a few days left for the counting of votes, both parties are strategizing for the possibility of a fractured mandate.

Sources said Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur is expected to be in Shimla to oversee efforts to induct independent MLAs in the event of a hung assembly, instead of stationing himself in his constituency Siraj, or if the BJP and the Congress There is an equal number of MLAs. seats. The saffron party held a strategy session in Dharamshala a few days ago to discuss the scenarios if it fails to get a simple majority.

The BJP faced a tough challenge from dissidents during the election. In at least a dozen seats, the party faced formidable rebel candidates, indicating that some independent contenders could play a key role in government formation.

Major rebels of the BJP include constituencies such as Nalagarh (Solan), Theog (Shimla), Kullu and Banjar (Kullu) and Dehra (Kangra). The Congress is also facing the problem of rebels in Pachhad (Sirmour), Chaupal (Shimla), Sulah (Kangra) and Theog (Shimla).

State BJP president Suresh Kashyap is already in Delhi to brief party chief JP Nadda and the central leadership about the possible scenario after the counting of votes and meeting with the candidates. The Congress, too, is busy with its post-result strategy, though it appears to be battling senior leaders already lobbying for the chief minister’s post.

The main contenders for the post include HPCC president Pratibha Singh, campaign committee chairman Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu and Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Mukesh Agnihotri. They have been claiming that the Congress will get a comfortable majority. Like the BJP, the opposition party has also opened channels of communication with its rebels, who have contested some key seats, if they win.

Some Congress leaders have expressed apprehension that the BJP may indulge in horse-trading after the counting of votes to form the government on December 8. Sukhu had claimed that the BJP would not get a chance to woo the MLAs as the Congress would get a majority on its own.

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