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Stephen plans third front

Jamshedpur/Ranchi, Feb. 5: Rebel JMM leader Stephen Marandi, after filing his nomination as an Independent from Dumka, now plans to form a 'third front' that, he claimed, will become the deciding factor in Jharkhand politics after the election.

Speaking to The Telegraph over the telephone from Dhanbad, Marandi said: 'Negotiations are on with like-minded parties including JMM (Democratic), Jharkhand Janadhikar Morcha and Independent candidates to form a third front.'

'The primary focus of the front will be to take up regional issues with a secular base.'

He added that all parties willing to join the proposed front ' Jharkhand Democratic Alliance ' are welcome.

He claimed that the front will definitely win at least 15 seats and 'we expect it will be a deciding factor at the time of government formation'.

Sources close to Marandi said several JMM candidates who are 'aggrieved with the nepotism of Shibu Soren' have already started contacting the leader. 'We expect that once the results of the Assembly election are declared, more leaders in the JMM will come out in the open with Marandi.' The projected convenor of the proposed alliance, Najam Ansari, who is also a close associate of Joba Majhi, said: 'We feel this front will play a major role in government formation. If the situation comes, we will definitely project Marandi as the chief minister.' Sources in the state Congress did not rule out the possibility of an alliance with the front after the election.

The JMM, meanwhile, has warned all the rebel candidates in the 18 seats in Santhal Parganas to withdraw their nomination papers or face expulsion. 'A formal circular will be issued tomorrow in consultation with the party chief,' JMM secretary Shailendra Bhattacharya said.

Sources said Soren will wait till February 7, the last date of withdrawal of nominations, to take a decision on Marandi. 'If he does not withdraw his nomination, he would be suspended from the primary membership of JMM. The party will also write to the Rajya Sabha chairman for the cancellation of his membership.' Soren said, 'I have faith he will return to the party fold before the last date of withdrawal of nominations.'

In another development today, Shibu Soren's son Hemant filed his nomination for the Dumka seat.

Speaking to The Telegraph later, he said: 'In course of my poll campaign never will I cast aspersions on my uncle Stephen Marandi, who apart from being a perfect gentleman, still continues to be my idol and hero.'

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