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JMM to cast net outside home turf

Ranchi, Jan. 1: The JMM has made up its mind on its New Year resolution: launch a vigorous campaign throughout the state in the run-up to the 2004 general elections and the Assembly polls the next year.

The JMM will treat the Poreyahat Assembly bypoll, scheduled in the first quarter of this year, as a “test case” to gauge the efficacy of the party programmes and the possibility of an alliance with the other national parties for the 2004 general elections.

The seat has fallen vacant after the election of rural development miniser Pradeep Yadav to the Lok Sabha last month.

Sources said the JMM today proposed to mount an intense campaign outside its traditional strongholds of the Santhal Parganas with a Shaheed Divas programme in Jamshedpur on January 3. It will be followed by a meeting of the party’s working committee at Daltonganj this month.

The JMM holds sway in eight of the 18 Assembly seats in Santhal Parganas and its leader Shibu Soren has trounced the BJP candidate by a big margin in the Dumka Lok Sabha seat.

However, the sources said, outside the JMM’s traditional bastion, it has been relegated way behind the BJP and the Congress. In the north and south Chhotanagpur regions, it is even behind the Rashtriya Janata Dal.

As many as 63 of the 81 Assembly seats are located in north and south Chhotanagpur. But the JMM could bag only four seats in the region.

JMM leaders conceded in private that the four seats were won on the personal charisma of candidates and the performance had nothing to do with the party or its political programmes.

The sources added that an internal political review has emphasised that if the JMM wanted to form the next government in Jharkhand, it was important that the party clinch the majority of the 63 Assembly seats located in north and south Chhotanagpur.

“The review has further established that only a virtual sweep outside the Santhal belts could put the party in the running,” a source said.

Realising this, party sources revealed, the JMM leadership has agreed to push the party outside its traditional strongholds with a series of programmes.

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