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JMM sets terms for Cong

Ranchi, Aug. 13: Chief minister and JMM leader Hemant Soren has made it clear to the Congress that his party will settle for nothing short of a “lion’s share” of seats if it was to contest the next Assembly elections as an alliance.

Party sources said Hemant revealed his stand on the opening day of the JMM’s two-day central working committee meeting held at a city hotel today.

Among those present were JMM patriarch Shibu Soren and all party office-bearers.

“We are the largest party in the UPA fold. We are stronger than any other UPA ally in terms of organisation, reach and support base. Our performance during the parliamentary elections in Jharkhand bolsters our claim of being the only force that can barricade the prospect of our rivals,” Hemant told the meeting.

While Hemant wouldn’t put a number to the “lion’s share”, party insiders said the JMM was planning to contest at least 45 Assembly seats, leaving 36 for the Congress and RJD.

“Last time we won 18 seats and were placed second in 12 seats. There are around 15 seats where we came third and our prospects are bright in these constituencies. On the other hand, the Lok Sabha results have exposed how the Congress has turned weaker than ever before,” a senior JMM leader said.

The JMM also rebuffed the Congress’s idea of roping in JVM in the UPA fold for a stronger alliance against the BJP. “We reject this idea. Our ideology doesn’t match with that of the JVM’s,” said party general secretary and spokesperson Supriyo Bhattacharya.

The JMM will formally unfold its stand vis-ŕ-vis the alliance with the Congress tomorrow.

Congress and JMM leaders have held informal discussions on the alliance in the recent past. At one such meeting with state Congress in-charge and AIIC general secretary B.K. Hariprasad, Hemant is understood to have told him that the JMM should be allowed to play the role of a senior partner in the coming Assembly elections.

Hemant’s stand on seats, made public today by the JMM, is a part of its strategy to put pressure on the Congress ahead of further talks.

Hardliners in the JMM are trying to convince Hemant that in case of an alliance, the Congress should be kept out of Santhal Pargana.

Congress insiders said that their central leadership had not taken a stand on the future of the alliance. “The central leadership is quite confused on the issue of continuing the alliance. What the JMM is offering is not acceptable to us,” a senior Congress leader said.