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Hemant too ‘busy’ for Rahul
- JMM scion may skip greeting Cong heir to show spine after Sabita fiasco

Ranchi, Feb. 6: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi may find a familiar face missing when he reaches Jharkhand tomorrow morning for a goodwill visit.

Chief minister Hemant Soren, whose very office is propped up by the Congress, may not meet Rahul. Hemant is apparently eager to deflect the perception within his own party and ruffled Kurmi-Mahto section in particular, that his is not a remote-controlled government.

Sources in the state Congress office and the CM’s secretariat dropped broad hints that Hemant’s hospitality will not be on show tomorrow.

Hemant’s political adviser Himanshu Shekhar Choudhary played safe.

“Veteran Congress leader Sukhdevji (read Sukhdev Bhagat) has asked if the CM would be available at around 5pm tomorrow (to meet Rahul). But the situation is dicey as far as the CM’s engagements are concerned. It would be embarrassing if the CM found himself unable to meet after giving time,” Hemant’s Choudhary told The Telegraph.

Hemant’s sudden engagements tomorrow are perhaps the fallout of recent events related to Rajya Sabha election, which finally did not need to happen as Parimal Nathwani and Prem Chand Gupta became uncontested winners.

Gupta’s candidature became a thorn in the flesh for the JMM. MLAs and workers are still seething over the party’s U-turn on popular leader Sudhir Mahto’s widow Sabita.

The JMM was forced to retreat from its earlier stand of fielding the Jamshedpur-based Sabita and instead support RJD candidate Prem Chand Gupta, whom the Congress also backed.

Three JMM MLAs Mathura Prasad Mahto, Jagannath Mahto and Vidyut Baran Mahto as well as Kurmi-Mahto groups have expressed their strong disapproval at what they termed the JMM’s betrayal and Sabita’s humiliation.

“If the CM meets Rahul tomorrow, he will look too eager to please Congress high command,” said a JMM insider

When contacted, Bhagat accepted they had requested Hemant for a meeting, but declined to comment further.

Political watchers will look forward to how Rahul reacts to this significant void in hospitality.

The Congress, whose recent Assembly poll drubbings have proved costly, also needs to muster support from regional parties before the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Rahul, who will meet tribal women and minorities in the capital, will also go to Hazaribagh, Kuju and Ormanjhi in a packed day tomorrow.


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