New Delhi: Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) led by Kuldeep Bishnoi on Thursday merged with Congress in presence of party leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, but former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda was conspicuous by his absence.

HJC was floated by Bishnoi’s father and former chief minister Bhajan Lal in 2007 after parting ways with the Congress as he was miffed at being sidelined by the party which preferred Jat leader Hooda as the chief minister in 2005.

“I had never separated from Congress. Differences occur in a family. Congress is in our blood. The differences are now over," Bishnoi, who took over the reins of the party after Bhajan Lal’s death on 3 June 2011, said following announcement of the merger at 10 Janpath in New Delhi.

HJC had forged an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the 2014 parliamentary elections. In the last assembly polls, the party fought separately and was reduced to just two seats—Kuldeep Bishnoi won from his father’s traditional Adampur seat of Hisar while his wife Renuka Bishnoi won from Hansi.

“Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are our only leaders. We will work for strengthening the Congress. I will work as an ordinary worker of the party and I have not put any conditions or come back due to greed of any post," Bishnoi said.

AICC general secretary in-charge for the state Shakeel Ahmad played down the absence of Hooda, saying that he was also in favour of the merger. “All were present here. Bhupinder Singh Hooda had an important appointment so he could not come. He will also join in and will be seen with other leaders. It is his intention also and he is in favour of the merger with all his heart," he said.

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