Shimla, Dec 8 (IANS): Admitting that the Assembly polls was neck and neck between the BJP and the Congress with a victory margin on at least 11 seats less than 1,000 votes, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Thursday said that he was going to submit his resignation to the Governor.
Setting aside rumours of horse-trading to stake claim to form the government, plain speaking Thakur, who retained his Seraj Assembly seat for the sixth consecutive term with a record margin, said he respected the mandate of the people.
"It is for the Congress to keep its flock (of legislators) together," he replied when questioned about the chances of poaching the Congress legislators by the BJP.
Crossing the halfway mark, the opposition Congress surged ahead of the ruling BJP by winning 16 seats and leading on 23 out of the 68 Himachal Pradesh Assembly seats while the ruling party won 13 seats and leading on 13 seats at around 3.31 p.m. Three independents also won the seats.
"We will form a government with a full majority...She (Pratibha Singh) is one of the contenders for the CM's post," said Congress leader Vikramaditya Singh, who retained his Shimla (Rural) seat. He is the son of six-time chief minister and veteran leader late Virbhadra Singh.
However, state party chief Pratibha Singh has not contested the poll.
"People have given us the mandate. We can meet (our MLAs) anywhere, including Chandigarh or in the state. Those who have won will be with us and we will form the government," Pratibha Singh told the media here.
Himachal Pradesh has not returned any incumbent government to power in the last nearly four decades.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which was in the fray for the first time in the Assembly polls, had been missing from the state well ahead of the polling with its leaders focusing on strengthening its vote bank in Gujarat.
It fielded candidates on 67 seats and is yet to open its account.
Celebrations by Congressmen began in the state capital by distributing sweets.
"The Congress is going to form a government with full majority," said leader Sukhvinder Sukhu, who is leading in his seat Nadaun in Hamirpur district.
The Congress is rushing Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel along with other senior leaders -- Bhupinder Hooda and the party's Congress in-charge Rajiv Shukla -- to the hill state.
Baghel expressed apprehensions of poaching of the Congress MLAs.