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Cong plays hardball, in no hurry
- State stares at another spell of President’s Rule, dissolution of Assembly unlikely

New Delhi, Jan. 9: Jharkhand may suffer another spell of President’s Rule as the Congress, eager to sew up another coalition, will take time to sort out “a host of issues” with the JMM before getting into another relationship with a party that had no ideological qualms in running a government with the BJP.

The period of uncertainty will continue for a while as governor Syed Ahmed hasn’t yet made any recommendation to the Union home ministry though he has sent a status report which details the events relating to the resignation of chief minister Arjun Munda.

The governor may like to explore the possibilities of an alternative government before recommending the imposition of President’s Rule.

The Congress high command today demonstrated typical indifference to the desperate overtures of the JMM to install an alternative government in the state and asked Hemant Soren to first discuss the nitty gritty with state leaders.

Congress leaders from the state too vehemently argued with the central leaders not to repeat the past mistake and forge an alliance with the JMM without losing precious time.

But Sonia Gandhi is obviously not in a mood to take the plunge without studying the whole gamut of issues, working out an agreeable plan of action and extracting a long-term commitment from a party that is notorious for its ideology-neutral opportunism.

Not only Sonia, even her political secretary Ahmed Patel, who decides the details of any political arrangement, avoided meeting Soren who flew into the national capital on the invitation of state Congress leaders.

Asked if an alternative government was possible, a senior Congress leader told The Telegraph, “No decision has been taken as yet but it is very difficult.”

The party’s legislature leader in Jharkhand Rajendra Singh met party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi and Ahmed Patel along with 10 MLAs and pleaded for installing a government as such a move would weaken the BJP and help the Congress rebuild its organisation in the state.

But Singh sang a different tune in conversation with The Telegraph. “We explained before the leaders the political situation in the state and left the decision to their wisdom. All the MLAs will abide by the decision of the high command,” he said — the subdued tone perhaps mirroring their failure in convincing the high command to form a government on the JMM’s terms.

Sources said while Sonia Gandhi was interested in exploring the viability of a stable government in the state, she was extremely sceptical of the JMM leadership’s commitments and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, too, was dead against inducting Shibu Soren in the Union government as a part of the deal for alliance.

The Congress would have preferred a government led by its own chief minister which is not acceptable to the JMM since it has more MLAs, 18 against the Congress’s 13.

A Congress leader who has strongly advised Sonia not to participate in or prop up any JMM government, said, “The break-up with the BJP happened because of the chief minister’s post as the rotation formula was apparently not accepted. The break-up hasn’t happened owing to a principle or on the question of bad governance.”

“In this case, we should be careful in sending out a message to the people of Jharkhand that we were a willing partner in the toppling game and went out of our way to facilitate Hemant Soren’s personal ambition,” the leader added.

But negotiations are continuing as there is another school of thought which recognises the pathetic state of the Congress organisation in the state and believes that winning even a single seat in the 2014 general elections would be difficult without the JMM’s support.

This view, however, is countered by the opponents with the argument that the fall of the BJP government had created an opportunity for the Congress to revive itself through correct political strategy and good governance.

These conflicting views will take time to harmonise and the imposition of President’s Rule in the meanwhile will also bring the JMM under Congress pressure.

With the governor on its side, the Congress can deliver during President’s rule and earn some goodwill, though the party’s experience during former governor Syed Sibte Razi’s regime was disastrous.

A clear scenario will emerge in the next few days, or weeks, though sources in the government ruled out the possibility of immediate dissolution of the Assembly as recommended by Munda.

The Congress is definitely not prepared for an early election in the state.