The Telegraph
Thursday , June 12 , 2014
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JMM keen on Congress hand

New Delhi, June 11: JMM chief Shibu Soren and his chief minister son Hemant met Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi yesterday and pitched for continuing the alliance with the Congress for the coming Assembly elections, citing the need to counter “communal forces”.

However, no assurances were offered by the Congress with sources saying that while Sonia was non-committal, she said the party was studying the feedback sent by its Jharkhand unit, which is known to be against continuing the alliance.

Congress decided to back Hemant’s government in Jharkhand in July last year after a 10-4 seat sharing deal with the JMM. While the Congress and RJD ended up losing all 10 seats between them, the JMM managed to win two (Shibu Soren in Dumka and Vijay Hansda in Rajmahal) of the four seats it contested in an election that saw the BJP win the remaining 12 seats of the state.

“The results have shaken JMM badly. They are insisting that a pre-poll alliance between Congress, JMM and Lalu Yadav’s RJD was the only effective way to ensure the BJP does not repeat its performance in the Assembly polls due in November,” said a senior Congress leader present during the meeting.

“They are very keen, but the high command is yet to take a final decision,” he added, indicating the Congress was unlikely to spell out its stand any time soon.

The state Congress, however, is against any pre-poll alliance with the JMM.

“It is our stand till date. Alliance or no alliance will be debated during Chintan Shivir scheduled on June 17. Our views will be communicated to the central leadership. Though, the JMM has been our natural partners, let a final picture emerge,” said state Congress president Sukhdeo Bhagat.

Senior Congress leaders of Jharkhand felt that running with a regional party could weaken its organisation in the state.

“More than election prospects, the focus should be on strengthening the party in Jharkhand as the Congress has no presence in the interiors. We hope senior leaders in Delhi pay heed to the points raised by grassroots workers before taking a final decision,” said a state leader.

JMM, which now has 16 MLAs against the Congress’s 12, understands that it would take a lot of convincing for the Congress to accept its proposal.

“Of course the ball is in the Congress court. However, it would be good for both parties if we go to polls together. We had not done very badly in 2009 and bagged 18 seats (two MLAs resigned this year),” said a JMM leader close to chief minister Hemant.

He said so far, the JMM had stuck to the alliance, it was now the Congress’s turn to reciprocate.

“Congress should realise this and maintain transparency on this count. We are hopeful that we will do well if we go all out with a well-planned strategy. Assembly elections after all are driven by local factors,” he said.