Updated: March 11, 2017 2:18:29 pm
Thick white snowballs gathered on rooftops as a hailstorm blew in Dehradun on Friday. Exit polls suggest a big victory for the BJP, but that is a prediction even many in the BJP find difficult to embrace — like the hailstorm, the result could go anywhere with a few hundred votes here and there.
“We should form the government”, said a senior leader, “but above 50 is…” In a House of 70, 36 seats are enough for majority. In 2012, the Congress won 32 and the BJP 31 — less than 1 per cent votes between them.
Irrespective of the predictions, leaders of both parties are preparing for tough negotiations with Independents, indicating few have discounted the possibility of another hung Assembly.
Chief Minister Harish Rawat, who celebrated his wedding anniversary today, has declared his cards. “I am for a wider, social combination for running and governing the state,” he told The Indian Express at his residence. Without disclosing details of negotiations with “outsiders”, Rawat said, “I would like to rope in a few intelligent people from outside who are right now not in our umbrella. I have already spoken to the party about it.”
The BJP is not lying low either. Asked about Rawat’s plans, a party leader said, “Humne chudiyan nahin pehan rakhi hain (We are not wearing bangles). Independents will come with us.” The 2012 polls had seen a hung Assembly, and the Congress government lasted five years with the help of Independents.
Despite the exit poll predictions, the factor that has made the final result so tantalising is the number of turncoats on both sides. At Rawat’s residence on Friday, his aides pointed to the Muslim polarisation in the plains — the seats of Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar districts that, they claimed, favoured the Congress — but they also discussed the impact of giving ticket to BJP rebel Shailendra Singh Rawat in Yamkeshwar, which invited the ire of Congress probable Renu Bisht, who contested as an Independent. “Bisht would be a spoiler for Shailendra,” a party leader predicted.
Rawat also admitted that the party had an “option to field better candidates in three or four cases”.
There are similar worries in the BJP camp over the fate of Congress rebels such as Satpal Maharaja (Chaubattakhal), Harak Singh Rawat (Kotdwar) and Subodh Onial (Narendranagar). Both parties are also concerned about the fate of their state chiefs. Pradesh Congress president Kishore Upadhyaya (Sahaspur) and his BJP counterpart Ajay Bhatt (Ranikhet) are facing tough contests, with party rebels expected to eat into their votes in their respective seats.
“If BJP gets more than 38 seats, it will only be due to PM Narendra Modi. There is no other factor,” a BJP leader said. “In that case, maybe even we failed to gauge Modi’s appeal among people.” The BJP faced a lot of internal dissent over tickets to Congress rebels, as many loyal cadres, including veteran RSS swayamsevaks, contested against official BJP candidates as Independents in protest. With the Congress struggling with its own dissent, the BJP has an upper hand but if it gets a big majority tomorrow, the game would go to Modi. The hailstorm, blowing over the last 36 hours in Dehradun, is expected on Saturday, the Met department predicts.
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