Shimla, Nov 23 (IANS) Sensing a neck−and−neck contest between Himachal Pradesh's ruling BJP and the Congress after the assembly election results are declared Dec 20, rebels who had broken free from the mainstream parties are drifting towards a united front. But they are still silent on which party they might support.
"We are not averse to forming a group (of rebels) that will help bargaining collectively with any political party once the election results are out," sitting legislator Rakesh Pathania, who contested as an independent from Nurpur in Kangra district, told IANS.
Bharatiya Janata Party rebels, mainly from Kangra, the state's largest district, have started holding parleys to project a united face once the results are out.
A meeting between Pathania and the BJP's suspended MP Rajan Sushant − once known political adversaries − was held recently to chalk out a strategy to bring all the like−minded rebels together.
Sushant has fielded his wife Sudha Sushant from Fatehpur as an independent. This seat was once represented by Sushant himself.
Both Pathania and Sushant are holding discussions separately on election prospects with other rebels.
A senior BJP leader said party rebels have started uniting after Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal indicated that the doors of the party were open for rebels.
After the party's crucial meeting on poll prospects in Shimla Monday, Dhumal told reporters that the party would seek the support of (winning) rebels for the formation of the government if required.
"We will get a two−thirds majority. If there is any requirement, we will seek the support mainly from the rebels who left the party ahead of the polls," he said.
The BJP has expelled 15 rebels for contesting against the party's candidates.
The BJP's potential rebels include Rajinder Rana and six−time legislator Roop Singh. They have contested respectively for the Sujanpur and Sundernagar seats.
"It's still not clear that any party will get a majority. The present scenario indicates the role of the independents will be crucial in the formation of the next government. Let the results be out then we will see (extending support to whom)," Rana said.
Former minister Roop Singh said the BJP, which expelled him from the party, can't claim its right on him.
The Congress, too, is not lagging behind in getting numbers if the party suffers any setback.
Leaders said party chief Virbhadra Singh has already opened channels of communication with party prominent rebels, including Dharamvir Dhami (Manali) and Vijay Jyoti Sen (Kasumpti).
But, sources said, Virbhadra Singh is keen getting support from the Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP), a political outfit headed by BJP rebel and four−time former MP Maheshwar Singh, in case of a poll reversal.
The HLP has contested on 36 of 68 seats where it has an electoral understanding with the Communist Party of India−Marxist (CPI−M) and the Communist Party of India (CPI).
"There are chances that the HLP will get two or three seats. So getting support from the HLP will be easier rather than banking on the party rebels against whom the party has already initiated action," a senior Congress leader, who didn't wish to be identified, told IANS.
In this election, held on Nov 4, 106 of 459 candidates contested as independents.
In 2007, the BJP won 41 seats, the Congress 23, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) one and independents three. The lone BSP legislator later joined the BJP.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com)