The Congress, which was six short of a simple majority in the 90-member Vidhan Sabha in Haryana, is poised to form the next government with the assured support of all the seven Independents. The ruling party won 40 seats, against 67 in the 2005 elections.

Congress State unit chief Phool Chand Mullana, who was defeated from Mullana, on Friday called on Governor Jagannath Pahadia and gave him a letter signed by the Independents assuring their support to the party.

Mr. Mullana urged the Governor to invite the party to form a government as per convention, as it had attained majority in the House.

On Friday night, a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party, authorised party president Sonia Gandhi to name the leader.

Emerging from the meeting, party general secretary Prithviraj Chavan told journalists that the meeting passed two resolutions, one thanking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Ms. Gandhi and general secretary Rahul Gandhi, and the other authorising Ms. Gandhi to name the leader who would head the next government.

Two other central observers, general secretaries Mohsina Kidwai and B.K. Hariprasad, and the seven Independent MLAs were present at the meeting.

While Bhupinder Singh Hooda was confident of being retained as Chief Minister, Minister of State for Tourism Kiran Choudhary, Union Tourism Minister Selja and the former Union Minister and sitting MP from Gurgaon, Inderjit Singh, were also said to be strong aspirants for the post.

The former Chief Minister, Om Prakash Chautala, whose Indian National Lok Dal, saw a dramatic increase in its tally from nine seats in 2005 to 31 now, said he had written a letter to the Governor alleging that the Congress was “indulging in horse-trading.”

He said the Congress had lost the moral mandate to rule and asserted that the Governor should not invite the ruling party to form a next government.

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