Even though the Congress was quick to jump into the Jharkhand farce, there was no headway in talks with Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) supremo Shibu Soren to form the new government.
Feverish negotiations and meetings continued in Ranchi, the state headquarters, and in Delhi after the JMM pulled out and toppled the BJP government led by 45-year old Arjun Munda.
The incharge general secretary Shakeel Ahmed and another senior leader Oscar Fernandes were ensconced with Congress president Sonia Gandhi till late Tuesday evening to discuss strategy for Jharkhand.
Sources said the party wants “concrete assurances” from the JMM that the alliance will continue till the next assembly and Lok Sabha elections, scheduled for 2014. Knowing the JMM was a slippery customer, they also want Shibu Soren to commit leaving majority of Lok Sabha seats for the Congress in return of support to his government. A section in the Jharkhand Congress is ready to play second fiddle to Soren’s party to keep the “communal BJP at bay”. Munda, who resigned for the third time as the chief minister since formation of the state 12 years ago, got a resolution adopted by his cabinet, urging the governor to dissolve the Assembly to facilitate fresh elections. But the Congress wants assembly to be put under suspended animation instead of its dissolution.
The Congress has only 14 MLAs who do not add up to the majority in the 82-member House as the JMM’s own strength of 18 is not enough. Therefore, support of Babulal Marandi with 11 MLAs will be crucial to save the state from yet another election. Shakeel Ahmed asserted that the state cabinet’s decision to recommend dissolution of the Assembly was not binding on the governor since it was done by the government that has come into a minority after the JMM pull-out. Others said the JMM has been an old ally of the Congress and as such both can work together without any difficulty.