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Bid for JMM-Cong deal

Ranchi, Jan. 29: The JMM is likely to seal a long-term alliance with the Congress in Jharkhand that will begin with next month’s Poreyahat bypoll and extend up to the Assembly elections in early 2005.

The JMM-Congress deal, expected to bring the RJD into its fold as well, will also signal the formation of a front in Jharkhand to take on the BJP and its allies in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.

JMM president Sibu Soren told The Telegraph that talks were on between the two parties in Delhi to evolve a consensus candidate for the Poreyahat Assembly seat to avoid a split in secular votes.

Soren said that since a fractured Opposition had thrown the Godda Lok Sabha seat last month in the BJP’s lap, efforts were on to avoid a repeat.

The JMM chief said that during discussions with AICC functionaries, he has stressed that the Congress has never won from Poreyahat. “The seat has traditionally been the JMM’s. Former party leader Suraj Mandal and then Prashant Mandal held the seat till the 1995 elections. We lost the seat only in 2000,” he added.

Soren said the talks, besides stressing upon the need to leave the Poreyahat seat to the JMM with strong support from the Congress, have also signalled the beginning of evolving a joint front of all secular parties that would take on the BJP in 2004 and 2005.

“The ice has been broken, though many more rounds of talks would be held between the two parties before a third front can materialise,” he added.

JMM sources said the party has decided to field Prashant Mandal from the seat. An announcement will be made only after the formal election notification on January 31. The JMM will wait till the last date for filing nominations to facilitate a formal alliance with the Congress, the sources said.

“Irrespective of the alliance talks, the JMM will hold its central committee meeting at Poreyahat on February 7 with an eye on the elections. The central committee will also chalk out an action plan to take on the BJP in the bypoll,” a JMM leader said.

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