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Sonia snubs Soren, springs poll alarm

Ranchi, March 3: Blame it on the hurly-burly of the Union Budget in a pre-poll year or Mrs G’s pointed disinterest, but JMM’s power duo — Shibu and Hemant Soren — came back from Delhi yesterday, empty-handed.

If the JMM had harboured fond hopes of cobbling together an alternative government in the state with the Congress, the fact UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi did not give the Sorens an appointment in the three days they waited for Dilli durbar is proof of the ill-founded optimism. Insiders cutting across party lines said Sonia’s snub to the Sorens indicated Jharkhand would go to polls this year with four other states — Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

Though state Congress leaders are playing it safe with silence, all other parties are vocal about what appears imminent.

The BJP passed a political resolution for dissolution of the Jharkhand Assembly and fresh elections during its national council meeting in Delhi yesterday. The party’s national president Rajnath Singh asked the state unit to “stay prepared” for Assembly polls.

Senior state BJP leaders confirmed as much. “We have been told by our national leaders, including party president Rajnath Singh, that news of elections in the state can come soon and we should gear up for it. We are getting ready,” said Dineshanand Goswami, the party’s state unit president.

JVM and Ajsu, two other key players of the state, have already repositioned their cadres for elections. “We are getting ready,” senior JVM leader and MLA Pradeep Yadav echoed Goswami.

He had an intriguing theory. “Be it government formation exercise or poll alliance, the Congress knows how to deal with the JMM. From the statement of the national BJP president, it appears both parties have secretly entered into an understanding to decide the poll timing,” he said.

The fact that the Congress has the upper hand where the JMM is concerned seems evident to all, including the Sorens.

JMM chief Shibu Soren on February 19 indicated to partymen that he would make a final bid for government formation with the Congress once the Union budget was out of the way.

But, he also asked them to start groundwork and prepare for likely midterm Assembly polls in Jharkhand.

So, if the Congress did not agree to an alliance, the JMM’s strong stand would have been a formal announcement on dissolution of the Assembly at the core committee meeting in Giridih on the sidelines of JMM’s foundation day on March 4. That stands postponed.

During a one-to-one meeting with all 24 district party presidents and other officials on that day, Soren Senior and Junior sought views on critical issues, the most pressing being whether the JMM should go alone in the Assembly and parliamentary polls or seek an alliance.

Former chief minister and political veteran Soren, who has weathered many a political storm, today said he was “hopeful that my proposal will be considered positively by April once Congress bosses get time after the budget session of Parliament”.

Son Hemant, former deputy chief minister, sulked.

“Indecisiveness over government formation continues on the part of Congress. We need to be told clearly on the issue,” the Soren scion told The Telegraph.

Many veteran JMM leaders such as Shashank Shekhar Bhokta, Hemlal Murmu and Champai Soren personally feel that government formation in April was “wishful thinking”.

“The Congress is just buying time. I don’t rule out midterm Assembly polls anytime after monsoon. We should prepare accordingly,” Bhokta said.

Another senior JMM leader admitted that no one could dare question Guruji (Soren Senior). “But there are murmurs against his son, who’s now virtually the JMM boss and a clueless fellow,” he said, seeking anonymity.

President’s Rule in Jharkhand was imposed on January 18, 2013. The first six months of its tenure will end on July 18. The Centre can extend it for another six months, during which Assembly polls have to be announced.


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