SHIMLA — The Congress on Thursday was leading the initial vote count in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls.
It crossed the half-way mark and was leading in 38 seats at around 11.40 a.m.
The ruling BJP was leading in 33 seats earlier but, gradullay slid to 26 and had won one seat.
The independents were leading in three constituencies.
Independents, all BJP rebels, are Hoshiyar Singh from Dehra, Hiteshwar Singh from Banjar in Kullu and Ashish in Hamirpur Sadar, once the stronghold of two-time Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.
As Himachal Pradesh has not returned any incumbent government to power in nearly four decades, early trends of ballot count indicated the Congress leading in the 68-member Assembly.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, 57, won from his stronghold Seraj in Mandi district. Congress prominent leaders Mukesh Agnihotri, 60, and Sukhvinder Sukhu, 58, are leading from Haroli and Nadaun seats respectively.
As most exit poll surveys have predicted a tight contest between the incumbent BJP and the opposition Congress.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is in the fray for the first time in the Assembly polls, has been missing from the state with its leaders focusing on strengthening its vote bank in Gujarat.
Sensing a neck and neck contest between the BJP and the Congress, rebels, who had broken ties with the mainstream parties, have started holding ‘in-door’ parleys with a belief that in politics there is no permanent enemy or friend.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the main Opposition Congress have also begun an exercise to keep its numbers in ‘order’ in case of hung House.
Insiders told IANS that the leaders of both parties were trying to sink their differences with the party rebels, whose numbers are nearly 20, to improve the party’s prospects.
The fear of exodus of lawmakers from the Congress was high. — IANS