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Cong dreams big in Jharkhand

New Delhi, Nov. 28: The Congress high command seems to have discarded its initial cynicism about the electoral outcome in Jharkhand and is now exploring the possibility of leading a coalition government in the state, and to ensure maximum votes it is rolling in the star power with attempts on to contact Sridevi and Zeenat Aman, after Nagma and Mahima Chaudhury.

The party is already mending fences with potential allies, primarily the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM). The change in perception has occurred after the latest feedback from the ground prompted senior leaders to believe that the Congress-led alliance is now in the reckoning. According to the party’s latest internal assessment, it can win 23-24 seats, while ally Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) is in a position to garner seven seats. The party is convinced that the required 10 seats to cross the half-way mark will come from JMM and RJD.

The party reportedly got three surveys conducted by high-profile agencies to gauge its chances in Jharkhand. While two gave the Congress 31 and 32 seats, the third pushed pegged the figure at an unrealistic 41. The first two surveys indicated that the Congress could reach the magic figure of 41 with its allies while putting the BJP ahead with 34-35 seats. The JMM was expected to bag seven seats and RJD three. All surveys indicated that the tainted Independents would win.

Initially, the Congress had no reason to believe the surveys as the feedback from the ground was discouraging. However, one round of polls and the scene changed dramatically. Positive reports from the ground made the possibility of the Congress-JVM combine crossing the 30-mark very real. A senior leader summed up the mood: “We are best placed to form the government. If the BJP-JD(U) fall short of 40, we shall pip them to the post. Don’t forget we have a government at the Centre.”

Though the Congress has claimed that it won’t take the support of tainted Independents, leaders in private are singing a different tune. Said one key strategist: “What can we do if somebody offers support? We supported the Koda experiment to avoid a constitutional vacuum. But this time, we will lead the coalition which will provide stability and direction to the government.” Added Jharkhand in-charge Keshav Rao: “It will be a Congress government come what may. All we have to do is to translate the goodwill for the Centre.”

Rao said clean governance and stability were the prime concerns of Jharkhand and the Sonia-Manmohan duo would best fulfil that criteria. “We feel an undercurrent of change in Jharkhand and the state wants to join the national mainstream under the Congress,” he said.

As of now, the party is satisfied with the first round of polling and is planning to rev up its campaign for the next phases. While Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to address five more rallies on two visits to the state, Rahul Gandhi will address eight rallies.

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