Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) chief Dushyant Chautala, who has defeated Prem Lata of the BJP by nearly 50,000 votes in the Uchana Kalan assembly constituency, could just turn kingmaker in the battle for Haryana.
As results of the Haryana assembly elections poured in, the BJP was seen to have won 14 seats across the state and gathered leads in 24. The Congress, on the other hand, had scored 10 seats and was leading in 23. If these trends remain steady as the day wears on, both parties will likely fall short of the halfway mark of 46 - opening a crucial door of opportunity for Dushyant Chautala's outfit.
The JJP leader had claimed just as much earlier in the day, as initial trends indicated that the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP would be unable to achieve a majority on its own. "I believe the key (to the next government) lies in the hands of the JJP," he said.
The key, incidentally, is the JJP's party symbol.
Ironically, the party did not even exist a year ago. It was born in December 2018, when Dushyant Chautala - a California State University graduate and the great grandson of former deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal - walked out of the Indian National Lok Dal along with his followers amid infighting in the Chautala clan.
However, going by initial trends, the fledgling party seems to found favour with Haryana voters. Latest figures released by the Election Commission showed the JJP emerging victorious in six seats and leading in four, setting Dushyant Chautala up for the role of kingmaker. "This shows there was huge anti-incumbency against the Manohar Lal Khattar government," he had observed earlier in the day.
With trends pointing to a hung assembly in Haryana, the JJP chief has now called a meeting of the party executive on Friday morning to discuss its future strategy. Some reports even suggest that he is demanding the chief minister's position as a pre-condition for a political alliance.
Today's victory comes as sweet revenge for Dushyant Chautala, who was defeated by Prem Lata by more than 7,000 votes from the Jat-dominated Uchana Kalan constituency in the 2014 Haryana assembly elections. Even in the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year, he had lost to the BJP's Brijendra Singh from Hisar parliamentary constituency.