Haryana Congress MLAs who were lodged in a resort in Chattisgarh's Raipur reached Delhi Thursday evening and are expected to arrive here Friday morning to cast their votes in the Rajya Sabha elections, sources said.
The ruling BJP-JJP MLAs remained lodged at a resort here for the second day as both sides braced for a keen contest on one of the two seats going to the polls.
In a late-evening development, lone Indian National Lok Dal MLA Abhay Singh Chautala declared his support to Kartikeya Sharma, who has entered the fray as an Independent candidate backed by the BJP-JJP combine and most Independents.
The BJP has fielded former minister Krishan Lal Panwar while Ajay Maken is the Congress nominee.
The Congress had shifted its MLAs to Raipur a week ago fearing poaching of its legislators. Sources said they left the resort there on Thursday evening and reached Delhi. They are expected to reach Chandigarh in the morning.
After reaching Chandigarh, they will have breakfast at Mr Hooda's residence here and proceed from there to cast their votes, sources said.
Speaking to reporters in Delhi, senior Congress leader Vivek Bansal, who is the party's Haryana affairs incharge, exuded confidence that Ajay Maken will win comfortably.
Congress leader Deepender Singh Hooda also said the party candidate will win comfortably.
Senior party leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who had been in Delhi for the past few days, reached here on Thursday evening. It is learnt that both Mr Hooda and party leader Kuldeep Bishnoi reached here in the same flight from Delhi.
Earlier, Mr Bishnoi, who is the MLA from Adampur in Hisar, did not go to Raipur as he was reportedly upset with the party for ignoring him in the recent reshuffle in its state unit.
He had lobbied for the post of the state unit chief, which went to former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda loyalist Udai Bhan. Another senior leader, Kiran Choudhary, too, did not go to Raipur reportedly due to health reasons.
"We have got sufficient numbers and our candidate will win comfortably with 31 votes," Mr Hooda had told PTI on Wednesday.
The BJP-JJP too had shifted their MLAs to a resort in Chandigarh. They are attending a "training session" in connection with the voting process, Haryana BJP chief O P Dhankar had said.
BJP's senior leaders, including Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Mr Dhankar, too had joined them.
While the BJP with 40 MLAs has sufficient votes to win one seat, the contest has spiced up for the second seat with the entry of media baron Kartikeya Sharma.
He is also supported by most Independents and Gopal Kanda, lone MLA of the Haryana Lokhit Party. A candidate needs 31 votes to win the elections. Indian National Lok Dal MLA Abhay Singh Chautala on Thursday declared his support to Sharma after a meeting of his party.
Replying to a question, Abhay Singh Chautala said the media baron's brother Manu Sharma, who had helped his father in the past, approached him for support.
Now, by supporting Kartikeya Sharma, he is repaying the debt, he said.
Mr Chautala said there is no question of supporting the Congress, "which has looted the country".
"For me, there is also no question of voting for the BJP candidate as the party pursued anti-farmer policies," he said.
He said if he abstains from voting, then it would mean benefitting the Congress candidate in the fray, which he can never do.
The INLD leader also lashed out at Bhupinder Singh Hooda, saying he can go to "any extent to serve his political interests".
Independent MLA Balraj Kundu, who is yet to make his stand clear on whom he will support, was on Thursday evening approached by Sharma's father and former Union minister Venod Sharma, who sought support for his son.
Venod, who had also remained a minister in the erstwhile Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led government, had floated his own outfit Jan Chetna Party.
The media baron's father-in-law Kuldeep Sharma is a senior Congress leader and a former speaker of the state Assembly.
On Thursday, Balraj Kundu told reporters that he will reveal his strategy on Friday.
Mr Kundu took a dig at the BJP, saying its leaders used to take potshots at the Congress for lodging their legislators in a resort over fears of poaching but now they too have done the same thing.
"Why the BJP and the JJP are lodging their MLAs in a resort here. One thing is clear from this that both outfits don't have faith in their MLAs and they fear cross-voting," he said.
Haryana Assembly Secretary and Returning Officer for the polls R K Nandal said on Thursday the polling will be held from 9 am to 4 pm. The votes will be counted soon thereafter.
The votes will be marked by a special pen provided by the Election Commission.
Each MLA after casting his vote will hand over the pen to the officer deputed by the poll body, Mr Nandal told reporters.
Mr Nandal said that Haryana's Chief Electoral Officer and one central observer, who is Manipur's Chief Electoral Officer, will be present to oversee the poll process.
In the 90-member Haryana Assembly, the BJP has 40 MLAs while the Congress has 31.
The JJP, which is an ally of the BJP, has 10 legislators while the Indian National Lok Dal and Haryana Lokhit Party have one each and seven are independents.
Two Rajya Sabha seats from Haryana will fall vacant in August with the terms of media baron Subhash Chandra and BJP leader Dushyant Gautam expiring.