The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong SOS to allies

Feb. 9: Dejected Congress leaders today publicly admitted that it could be difficult for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to cobble up a majority in Jharkhand.

'We hope the RJD and the Left will join the government,' said Digvijay Singh, while Ajit Jogi conceded the pre-poll alliance had floundered. A post-poll secular alliance, however, will evolve and form the government, he added.

Jharkhand Congress president Sushila Kerketta betrayed nervousness by sharply criticising the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha for its failure to persuade its 'official' candidate P.. Pandey to withdraw from the fray in Bokaro.

Describing it as a 'betrayal of trust', Kerketta said since the Congress had not put up candidates in seats left to the JMM, the latter too should have left the Bokaro seat to the Congress.

There are four constituencies, where both Congress and JMM candidates are pitted against each other. 'But do not blame the Congress if the results in any of these seats go against the UPA coalition,' Kerketta said.

Bitterness and distrust between the two allies appear to have grown with a section of the Congress convinced that P.. Pandey could not have filed his nomination without the tacit support of the JMM leadership.

There was high drama at Chas-Bokaro, where a crowd waited impatiently to find out if Pandey would finally withdraw from the fray. It turned out to be an anti-climax when the subdivisional officer announced that an independent candidate was the only one to have withdrawn, apparently in favour of Pandey, leaving 53 candidates in the fray, the highest in the state.

Pandey told The Telegraph that a letter from the JMM office secretary was indeed received at his residence around 2.45 pm today, asking him to withdraw. But he was away campaigning and when he returned, it was too late. In any case, he argued, had Shibu Soren been serious, he could have easily spoken to him on his mobile. But no such call was made, Pandey claimed.

He was not a rebel, he explained, but was merely safeguarding the interests of the party. The embarrassment of the UPA was complete when it was discovered that JMM Rajya Sabha member Stephen Marandi too had failed to withdraw, Wednesday being the last day to do so. Indeed, Stephen Marandi's campaign received a boost when a letter of support from a Catholic priest, P.A. Chako, was leaked in Dumka.

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