The Independents may as well prove trump cards in government formation, with pollsters predicting a photo finish in the Himachal election. Some feel this and have even started forming pressure groups to cash in on the unclear outcome.
A total of 21 Congress and BJP rebels were in the fight this time. Sources said while rebels were expected to win in some crucial constituencies, independent candidates were trying to build some sort of group.
The most intriguing outcome is predicted in the Kangra and Manali-Kullu belts, where rebel candidates are likely to be a spoilsport. And what has caught the attention of the media is the reported meeting between independent candidates.
According to sources, three independent candidates – Kirpal Singh Parmar (Fatehpur), Manohar Dhiman (Indora) and Sanjay Prashar (Jaswan Pragpur) – recently held a meeting in Dharamsala to discuss the results of the poll.
Parmar, a former Rajya Sabha member, contested Fatehpur as an independent after the BJP denied him a ticket. Prashar too decided to run as an independent from Jaswan Pragpur after the saffron party failed to give him a constituency ticket. Dhiman, a former legislator, also contested the election as an independent candidate.
Sources close to the rebels said they would form a pressure group, these candidates had even approached a former Sullah MLA, Jagjivan Pal, who had also contested the election as an independent after the party denied him a ticket.
Hoshiyar Singh, who fought as an independent from Dehra, is in contact with political parties. He had recently joined the BJP and was expecting a ticket from Dehra, but the party ignored his claim and he eventually joined as an independent. Singh apparently has a strong chance of winning the polls.
Predictions of a hung assembly have revived memories of the results of the 1998 election, when no party managed to secure a clear majority. A congressional splinter group, led by former union minister for telecom Sukh Ram, had founded the Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC).
The HVC had won four seats, while the BJP and Congress won 31 seats each. But it was the BJP that managed to form a government with the help of the HVC and independent candidate Ramesh Dhawala, who later joined the BJP.
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