Kuldeep Bishnoi-led Haryana Janhit Congress today snapped its three-year-old ties with BJP ahead of assembly elections in the state accusing it of "repeated betrayal", and decided to join hands with former Congress leader Venod Sharma's Jan Chetna Party (JCP).
The BJP, which had been giving indications that it was not averse to going it alone after the Lok Sabha poll success, hit back saying Bishnoi was "a general without an Army" and was suffering from "delusion of becoming chief minister".
Announcing the decision to break the alliance with BJP, HJC-BL chief Bishnoi, younger son of former Haryana Chief Minister late Bhajan Lal, said the party which cared less for its own stalwarts like A B Vajpayee and L K Advani could not be trusted anymore.
"We tried our level best to keep the alliance working... made sincere efforts...They (BJP) are not ready to stick to the agreed alliance principles," Bishnoi said at a press conference here, adding that his party would join hands with former Union minister Venod Sharma's Jan Chetna Party (JCP) before the state polls, likely to be held in October.
BJP, however, refuted the charges that it betrayed the Haryana outfit. "We have never betrayed any ally... We wanted him (Bishnoi) to understand ground realities... He has left us acting like a B-team of Congress. He had six MLAs and all of them except him joined Congress. He is a general without an Army," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said in Delhi.
The formal parting came after a bitter spat between the parties over seat-sharing and the chief ministerial nominee.
Bishnoi charged that "the BJP wants to weaken and wipe out the regional parties. They make use of regional parties to make themselves strong and later dump them".
He said there was no longer any "Modi Wave" and things are always different during the Lok Sabha polls and in the state polls. "We are going to people and let them decide what punishment they want to give to those who have betrayed us," he said.
Rift within BJP-HJC alliance, which was once described as "rock-solid", surfaced soon after the Lok Sabha poll results, as the Bishnoi-led outfit failed to win any of the two seats it had contested while BJP bagged seven out of eight constituencies it fought in the state.
The rift widened due to differences over seat-sharing for the Assembly polls, with Bishnoi seeking 45 of the state's 90 seats and demanding that he be declared the chief ministerial candidate of the alliance, both of which the BJP has rejected.
At the press meet also attended by JCP chief Sharma and other HJC leaders, 45-year-old Bishnoi said "Haryana is the land of Kurukshetra, the land famous for doing justice. The very basis of our party coming into existence (in 2007) was that we stood up to fight against injustice."
"They betrayed (first Haryana CM) Bhagwat Dayal Sharma, Devi Lal, Chaudhary Om Prakash Chautala, Bansi Lal... Those who can ditch Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi (who are no longer part of BJP's highest decision making body) what can people expect of them? They cannot be trusted anymore," Bishnoi said.
"Betrayal is in the nature of BJP," Bishnoi said, adding he served and cooperated with BJP from the "core of my heart for the last three years", but at the end "we were betrayed".
JCP chief Sharma made it clear that the HJC chief will be the chief ministerial candidate of the new alliance, and if voted to power, he will serve as CM for a full five-year term.
BJP spokesperson Hussain mocked Bishnoi's "delusion" of becoming the state's chief minister, and said the HJC leader was acting in connivance with Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
The people of Haryana, he said, have decided to elect a BJP government.
"BJP will fight the elections on its own... And will form government after getting people's mandate. People have made it clear that they want a BJP government in the state," Hussain said at a press conference soon after Bishnoi's announcement of severing ties with BJP.
Hussain said the relations between the two parties had soured during the Lok Sabha polls itself when BJP rejected Bishnoi's proposal to field Venod Sharma as a candidate.
"He (Bishnoi) did not have candidates for two Lok Sabha seats. Where would he get people to fight Assembly polls? And he has delusion of becoming chief minister," he said.
Bishnoi said "people have more faith in regional parties in the state assembly polls." He, however, sidestepped questions about possibility of his party's alliance with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Bishnoi alleged more than a year ago BJP had started to sideline his party, but on every occasion he chose to ignore it thinking they would mend themselves and moreover, they were in favour of giving people a viable and clean alternative.
"When Narendra Modi was declared as prime ministerial candidate by his party last year, he held his first rally at Rewari in Haryana in September, for which I was not invited. Still, I went there thinking that a wrong impression must not go among the people. At the Rewari rally, I was ignored by the BJP leaders and Modi even did not take my name," Bishnoi said.
Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls this year, the BJP tried to bulldoze its way with everything. "We wanted Venod Sharma to contest from Karnal Lok Sabha seat (after he left Congress), but Sushma Swaraj telephoned me saying the alliance will break if Venod is taken by the HJC... We fielded another candidate, BJP opposed to it also," he said.
"BJP thrust upon us the Sirsa seat, as they themselves did not want to contest it knowing they will lose," he said.
He gave a number of other examples where BJP had treated the junior partner in a bad way.
He said that BJP chief Amit Shah had at recent rallies in Haryana asked the people to keep out the "corrupt" Congress and INLD, which is infamous for promoting "goondaism", from coming back to power, "but conveniently forgot that SAD leaders including Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal had campaigned for INLD candidates in the LS polls, to which BJP never objected".
"They have left us in a jungle with nowhere to go. But the people of Haryana will take revenge and punish them for their misdeeds," he said.
Bishnoi said he never cared for any post and the decision was not based on his reported ambition to become chief minister. "My upbringing has been on principles, on values and I am not an opportunist. I do not care for posts," he said.
He also claimed recently BJP has been going on a spree inducting "corrupt and goonda elements from Congress and INLD. Bishnoi cannot share stage with such people".
Bishnoi and his late father Bhajan Lal had separated from Congress after the party named Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who was a MP from Rohtak in 2005, to lead the state ignoring Lal, who was a strong claimant for the post after party had returned to power with an overwhelming majority.
Addressing the press conference, JCP chief Sharma said keeping in view the family Bishnoi belongs to and keeping in view his political legacy and his feelings towards people and the faith they have in him, "the people of Haryana want him to become CM and our alliance will project him as CM candidate. If we win, he will serve as CM for full five years."
Sharma said Bishnoi had favoured in doing away with Haryana Services Selection Commission, "which we call Simon Commission, because in interview system there cannot be transparency as discretionary powers are used by the powers at the helm to select the undeserving candidates get jobs".
"We had already said that we will work with such a party which believes in ending interview system... Bishnoi has supported us on this. He has also supported us on the fact that bureaucrats on the verge of retirement should not be rewarded with any plum postings and re-employment after their retirement as it is devoid of any transparency and government tends to extend benefits to its favourites," Sharma said.
Sharma said that keeping in view winnability of seats, both HJC and his party will decide on how many seats to contest. "But one thing I can assure you is that before this alliance, no party can put up a fight," he said.
While Bishnoi said that his party will release its election manifesto soon, Sharma said that they would do release their manifesto on August 31.
Meanwhile, when asked about the development, Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda claimed the alliance of Congress was with the people of Haryana and it was the only alliance which was strong while "other alliances or 'Thugbandhans' (alliance of impostors) are meaningless".
Hooda was in Chandigarh to launch 'Pradhan Mantri Jandhan Yojana'.