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Minister lobbies for seats for ally RJD
- Mannan Mallick meets Oscar to rejig Lok Sabha election deal with JMM

New Delhi, Nov. 28: Congress is trying to tweak its seat-sharing agreement with JMM ahead of the 2014 elections, hoping to repeat the alliance’s dream run of the 2004 polls when the three parties had collectively won 12 out of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand.

In July, the Congress had decided to extend support to a JMM-led government in Jharkhand after the Shibu Soren’s party agreed to let the “big brother” contest 10 seats in the upcoming general elections while keeping only four for itself.

The state Congress unit, however, is now of the view that at least two seats be given to old partner Lalu Prasad’s RJD.

At a meeting yesterday with senior party leader and Union minister Oscar Fernandes, who is said to be close to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, state leaders suggested that both the Congress and JMM should give at least one seat each to RJD.

State minister Mannan Mallick, who holds the animal husbandry, fisheries and disaster management portfolios, said the attempt was to form a formidable alliance against the BJP in Jharkhand.

“In 2004, we fought elections together, reducing the BJP’s claim to two seats. If we don’t take RJD along with us, this will result in division of votes, benefiting the Opposition. So we are trying to come up with an equation that will boost our prospects,” said Mallick, who along with other party leaders, was in the national capital to campaign for the Delhi Assembly elections.

He, however, added that a final decision would be taken by the party high command. “Of course, it will depend on the party’s policy on an alliance with the RJD as its chief Lalu Prasad is in jail. But for the benefit of the party during the polls, we want to fight together with a clear understanding,” the minister explained.

Sources said during the meeting, also attended by former state Congress chief Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu, leaders discussed the seats they wanted for the party.

“Dhanbad Lok Sabha constituency has emerged as a contentious seat with three party leaders — Chandra Shekhar Dubey, Mallick and Rajendra Prasad Singh — staking claim to it.

“Also, leaders want Giridih, from where JMM’s Teklal Mahto had won in 2004. Though JMM lost the seat to BJP’s Ravindra Kumar Pandey in the next elections, it will be interesting to be seen if JMM will forego the seat,” remarked a party insider.