The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong softens JMM

New Delhi, Feb. 19: Opposition parties in Jharkhand have decided to bury differences and sew up an alliance to defeat “communal forces” in the general elections.

“The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha has given the green signal. The stage is set for further discussions on seat-sharing,” said an elated Thomas Hansda, the state president of the Congress.

The talks, held at the residence of Congress Rajya Sabha MP R.K. Anand, were attended by JMM leader Sibu Soren and the Congress in-charge of Jharkhand, R.K. Dhawan.

The negotiations resumed after Soren refused to compromise on his party’s demand for eight of the 14 seats in the state. At a meeting held a few days ago, Soren had abruptly left.

Had the JMM decided to contest the Lok Sabha polls alone, the BJP would have gained due to the split in the anti-NDA votes. The BJP had fewer votes than the combined share of the Congress, the RJD and the JMM in the past.

The Congress, however, decided to keep the doors open for further talks and was keen to cash in on the “contradictions” between the JMM and the BJP.

JMM secretary Sailendra Bhattacharjee said the next round of talks on seat-sharing would be held in a week.

“The decision came about due to the necessity of defeating the communal forces. Everything will be formalised once the negotiations begin again with the Congress high command,” he added.

Congress leaders had said earlier that an understanding was reached with the RJD and the CPI — the other partners in the anti-NDA alliance. The RJD will be given two seats and the Left party one.

Commenting on the JMM’s demand for eight seats, Hansda said: “The final pact is going to witness certain changes in the party’s earlier demand. It is going to be finalised at the subsequent talks to be held in the presence of Sonia Gandhi.”

JMM is keen to contest in Koderma and Rajmahal, both won by the Congress in 1999. It has also staked claim to Jamshedpur and Singhbhum.

Hansda said RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav and the CPI would be apprised of the developments at a meeting scheduled for tomorrow.

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