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Cong tickled but waits

New Delhi, Jan. 7: The Congress leadership is itching to snatch Jharkhand from the BJP but the high command has decided to hold its horses till the Arjun Munda government caves in.

Congress leaders tonight said the situation in Jharkhand was still fluid. “We are not going to sit idle once the government falls but so far there is no clarity on what the AJSU would do,” one leader said after the JMM announced plans to withdraw support.

“There are also confirmed reports that Munda is trying to engineer a split in Babulal Marandi’s Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM). We still hope he will fall short of majority, but let that happen first.”

The Congress has 14 MLAs in the 82-member Assembly. State unit chief Pradip Balmuchu is said to have assured the central leadership of managing 43 legislators, excluding the JVM, if the JMM finally crosses sides.

Asked what the party would “gain” by installing a government with the JMM’s help, a leader said: “Two years are left of this Assembly’s life and our state leaders believe that being in government would help consolidate the organisation. The BJP, which has almost lost Karnataka, has to be weakened further.”

JMM chief Shibu Soren had come to Delhi last month and wanted to meet Sonia Gandhi but she refused to oblige “the BJP ally” although his son Hemant has been in touch with Congress leaders.

Congress MLAs from Jharkhand, who were in Delhi to attend a wedding, met Shakeel Ahmed, the AICC in-charge of the state, this evening. “We are watching the situation but let the JMM formally withdraw support,” Ahmed said after the meeting.