The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shibu climbs down a notch

Ranchi, Jan. 14: After a rigid stance for almost a week, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief Shibu Soren today relented and said he could consider sparing a couple of more seats to the RJD if Laloo Prasad Yadav made such a request.

He also issued an appeal to the RJD to reconsider its decision of fielding candidates in 51 seats in Jharkhand. 'If the RJD chief makes a request, we will certainly consider it,' Soren said here this evening.

The softening of stance has left room for the Congress, RJD, JMM and the Left parties to eventually work out a deal in Jharkhand.

On the other hand, the RJD, which had initially demanded 24 seats but then ramped up its demand to 51 following Soren's 'intransigence', gave enough hints that it was ready to play ball with the JMM. 'The party is still in a give-and-take mood. There is still enough room to make a solid secular alliance for which all of us are working,' RJD parliamentary board chairman Saba Ahmed said.

The RJD and Left parties had earlier accused the Congress and the JMM, which agreed to contest 33 and 35 seats respectively, of reaching an agreement. But Soren brushed aside suggestion that the alliance would fall apart. 'We are part of UPA. So are the Congress, RJD and the Left and together we will ensure the defeat of the BJP-led alliance like we did during the Lok Sabha poll,' Soren said.

But he urged the RJD and the Left to consider the role played by his party in the statehood struggle. 'For the past 40 years, we have been struggling. The last election was contested during undivided Bihar. This is the first time that the JMM has got a chance to contest with its own agenda and vision for good governance which has been neglected over the years,' Soren said.

The JMM chief is not happy with the induction of the four JD (U) rebels and former Assembly Speaker Mrigendra Pratap Singh into the RJD, branding them 'opportunists'. 'For the past four years they have made hay while being in the ruling coalition. Now they know that the UPA is bound to come to power in the state so they have deserted their parties to join the RJD,' he said.

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