The Telegraph
Wednesday , February 20 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Soren tells party to be poll-ready

Ranchi, Feb. 19: JMM chief Shibu Soren today indicated to partymen that he would make a final bid for government formation with the Congress after the Union budget, urging them in the same vein to start groundwork and prepare for likely mid-term Assembly polls in Jharkhand.

During a one-to-one meeting with all 24 the districts party presidents and other officials today, Soren and his son Hemant sought their views on critical issues, the most pressing being whether the JMM should go it alone in the Assembly and parliamentary polls or consider an alliance.

“He sought our views on future alliances and asked about our organisational preparedness in case mid-term Assembly elections are held. It means we should be in poll mode instead of expecting to form an alternative government,” a top party leader told The Telegraph.

A probable pre-poll JMM-Congress alliance has long been in the offing.

This, despite the strained relationship between the parties after Congress cold-shouldered JMM’s call for government formation after withdrawing support to the BJP-led ruling coalition last month.

The murmurs are rife again after state Congress president Pradeep Balmuchu yesterday sent a positive note about pre-poll understanding with the JMM.

Insiders confided that half the JMM leaders supported the idea of contesting elections alone, whereas the rest backed a tie-up provided the Congress did not demand a lion’s share in seat-sharing.

Also, the domain of Santhal Pargana, where JMM won 10 out of 18 Assembly seats in the last election, must be kept out of Congress’s bounds.

“Such discussions are quite natural. So speaking anything about alliance or no alliance at this moment would be premature. We are strong enough to fight all 81 seats,” JMM general secretary Vinod Pandey told the media on the sidelines of today’s meeting.

Party insiders confided that talks with the Congress are underway.

Even a section of the JMM feels that an alliance with Congress may help the party to recapture Muslim votes, which it lost after joining hands with the BJP in 2010.

However, insiders feel the party must tread cautiously, arguing the Congress might enforce CBI investigations against a few JMM legislators and leaders to deploy arm-twisting tactics for an alliance to gain maximum concessions in seat sharing.

Guruji was particularly inquisitive about the response of people over JMM’s withdrawal of support to the Arjun Munda government and whether it helped to consolidate its position.