As early trends for the election results to the Himachal Pradesh Assembly pointed toward a tight race between the ruling BJP and the Congress, the focus has returned to rebel leaders from either side, many of whom quit and contested as Independent candidates.
As per trends available after the first couple of hours of counting, neither the Congress nor the BJP appeared to be in a position to cross the magic figure of 35 required to form a government in the 68-member Himachal Pradesh legislative assembly. Both BJP and Congress were leading on 32 seats each at the time of filing this report.
The neck-and-neck fight has made the situation precarious with both sides readying plans. While there were reports of both the Congress and the BJP reaching out to rebel MLAs soon after polling concluded, the efforts will only gather pace as the day progresses. Four Independents were reported to be leading from their respective constituencies, a number that could make them kingmakers if the current trends hold.
The Congress party, on its part, is readying plans to shift its MLAs to an undisclosed location. The development came as the BJP got into a huddle to discuss the plans ahead if both sides failed to get past the majority mark.
The Aam Aadmi Party, on the other hand, may not have managed to open its account so far, but has definitely dented the chances of the Congress in the state. No party has been voted back to power in Himachal in its history, barring on one occasion. The Congress, which had focussed on local issues in the elections this time, was hoping that the trends will hold and help them sail through.
The trends so far are in line with the exit poll predictions which had hinted at a close contest between the Congress and BJP. While most exit polls gave a slight edge to the BJP, there were some who predicted that the BJP would breach the halfway mark to form a government.
The elections to the 68-member Himachal Pradesh assembly were held on November 12 in a single phase.