Ever since the appointment of former MLA Udai Bhan – a staunch loyalist of former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda — as president of Haryana Congress, the BJP was keeping an eye on the movements of Congress legislator Kuldeep Bishnoi.
Bishnoi had met Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar in Gurgaon on May 17, but it was not sure then that the Congress leader will turn a rebel so soon.
Meanwhile, BJP decided to back independent candidate Kartikeya Sharma in the Rajya Sabha polls apart from fielding Krishan Lal Panwar as party nominee. The Congress fielded Ajay Maken as party nominee and as per the party’s strength in the Assembly (31 MLAs), it would have been an easier task to win the Rajya Sabha polls, had BJP not acted to woo Bishnoi and a few others in the Opposition camp.
Amid voices of discontent in the Congress after revamping the party organisation, the BJP gave the responsibility to two prominent leaders; state power minister Ranjit Singh Chautala and former minister Manish Grover, a close-aide of Khattar to woo Kuldeep Bishnoi. Sources said that first Grover contacted Bishnoi to seek vote for Sharma. Then, Chautala met him and tried to convince him to vote for the BJP-backed candidate. According to sources, Kuldeep Bishnoi was urged to take a right decision at a right time insisting that Hooda and Congress were not trusting him anymore. He was also told that Hooda won’t let him grow further especially after the Congress high command has given him a free hand. He was told that his future in Congress was not very bright. It’s learnt that Bishnoi wanted to take a call after careful consideration while referring to his past experience with the BJP. Bishnoi’s Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) had joined hands with BJP in 2011 but the alliance was broken ahead of the 2014 Assembly polls. In 2016, Bishnoi had merged his party with Congress after a meeting with Rahul Gandhi.
According to a source, Chautala told Bishnoi that the BJP may give him a suitable role in the party while sending him to campaign in favour of its candidates in Rajasthan’s 15 Bishnoi community-dominated constituencies.
Sources said that Chautala also urged him to join BJP unconditionally while giving his example how he had also extended unconditional support to the saffron party and was given an important assignment even being an independent MLA. Sources also claimed that Chautala got Bishnoi contacted with the CM too. Grover also talked to Bishnoi again, following which sources claim that Khattar, Chautala and Grover were convinced that Bishnoi will extend his support to Kartikeya Sharma.
Sources added that Chautala was also instrumental in getting two more MLAs from the Opposition camp in contact with the CM just ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls. One of these MLAs voted for Kartikeya Sharma while another extended “tactical support”.
Bishnoi had told The Indian Express, “I listened to my soul and acted on my morals”.
A close associate of Kuldeep Bishnoi said everybody had contacted them for the vote in support of Kartikeya Sharma but none sought votes for Congress candidate Ajay Maken. Bishnoi’s associate said, “We have only opposed Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Bishnoi had sought time to meet Rahul Gandhi but he was not facilitated for the same. That’s why Bishnoi voted for the independent candidate . We don’t want the Congress party to go into the hands of a family (Hooda).”