- Independent MLA Gopal Kanda has turned kingmaker with one seat
- He was reportedly flown in to Delhi to meet BJP leadership
- Haryana delivered a split verdict, the BJP has won 40 seats
A controversial politician who was once the target of BJP protests could help the ruling party form government after it failed to win a majority in the Haryana election. Gopal Kanda, one of the eight MLAs that the BJP is looking to for support, has turned kingmaker with one seat.
Gopal Kanda, the chief of the Haryana Lokhit Party, was among the MLAs flown to Delhi for a meeting with the BJP leadership last evening by a BJP MP, Sunita Duggal.
A photo of Gopal Kanda and independent MLA Ranjeet Singh on what appears to be a special flight was in circulation on Thursday evening, hours after it became clear that Haryana would end up with a fractured verdict.
Before he took the flight from the Indian Air Force (IAF) station in Haryana, Mr Kanda told reporters that he would support the party that would work for the development of Sirsa, his home base, from where he has won.
Gopal Kanda resigned as a minister in then chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda's cabinet after he was accused of abetting the suicide of an air hostess who worked for his aviation company in 2012.
The 53-year-old businessman-politician's rise has been incredible from a time he was steeped in debt because of a failed shoe business.
He rebuilt his fortune after venturing into the real estate business in 1998. In 2007, the centre asked the Haryana government to investigate him after he was caught in his car with four wanted criminals.
Mr Kanda was associated with the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) when he decided to contest the Haryana election in 2009. When the INLD did not field him, he contested as an independent candidate and won. With the Hooda-led Congress falling short of a majority, he had enough leverage to become a minister.
He already had his own airline - MDLR -- by then.
In 2012, Mr Kanda was arrested after one of his employees, Geetika Sharma, left suicide notes accusing him of harassment. At the time, the BJP held protests against him, demanding his resignation as minister and his arrest. Geetika's mother also committed suicide later.
He was charged with rape, abetment to suicide, criminal conspiracy and criminal intimidation and jailed in the case for a year. The rape charges were dropped in 2014. He was released on bail. The same year, he contested the Haryana polls and lost.
In 2016, Mr Kanda and his brother Govind were charged for alleged illegal property development in Sirsa. Other charges against him include tax evasion and cheating.
The BJP, with 40 assembly seats, is six short of a majority in Haryana. With the support of Mr Kanda and seven other independents, it is expected to make up the shortfall easily.
Mr Kanda, who won from the Sirsa assembly seat by a margin of 602 votes, met with BJP working president JP Nadda till late on Thursday in Delhi.
Mr Kanda's brother Gobind Kanda told reporters that their Haryana Lokhit Party is in touch with five more MLAs who would extend their "unconditional support" to the ruling party.