In a surprise development, the six-member Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) Legislature Party split on Monday with four MLAs, constituting two-thirds the strength, joining the Congress. Now, the strength of the ruling Congress has gone up from 40 to 44 in the 90-member House.

Political observers said it was quite obvious that the ruling party had “engineered” defections in its bid to have stability in the Assembly even though the HJC chief Kuldeep Bishnoi, MLA from Adampur and son of the former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal, was still mulling over whether to merge the party with the Congress or extend outside support to the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government as a “coalition partner.”

They said the present development was rather ironical as it was Mr. Bhajan Lal who had earned the epithet of “master of defections” when he had encouraged “Aya Ram Gaya Ram” style of politics under, which his regime survived by going in for “mass scale defections” in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

It was quite obvious that Mr. Hooda had once again outwitted the Bhajan Lal clan by virtually adopting “almost similar tactics” to ensure the survival and stability of his government.

The four MLAs who were flown from New Delhi to Chandigarh, where they handed over a formal letter to Vidhan Sabha Speaker H. S. Chatha, included Narender Singh (Narnaul), Satpal Sangwan (Dadri), Venod Bhyana (Hansi) and Zile Ram (Assandh).

State unit Congress chief Phool Chand Mullana, who was present in the Speaker’s chamber, approved their joining the Congress.

Mr. Chatha told journalists that he had met the four legislators individually to ascertain whether they were joining the Congress on their own or under some pressure. While describing their move as Constitutional, he said they had joined the Congress willingly.

It may be recalled that the Congress, which had gone in for early polls almost six months before the term of the Hooda regime was to expire, had won only 40 seats, six short of a simple majority.

Acting overnight, Mr. Hooda had managed to win the support of seven Independents and lone Bahujan Samaj Party MLA. He had proved his majority on the floor of the House on October 28 and had expanded his Cabinet on November 7 by inducting nine Ministers, including four Independents.

He also accommodated the remaining three Independents as Chief Parliamentary Secretaries. Four slots 3were kept vacant, probably for the HJC, which could participate in the government through direct merger or outside support.

With the day’s developments, it is yet to be seen how the Chief Minister adjusts these four MLAs who have joined the party. Apparently, strong resentment is brewing amongst some former senior Ministers and Congress MLAs as they have been denied Ministerial berth.

Mr. Mullana, who lost in the recent elections, told journalists that “the Congress had fared badly on several seats due to infighting.” He added that the poll results were being reviewed and action would be taken against those who worked against the party nominees.