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Cong stitching up an alternative in Jharkhand

December 25, 2009 00:55 IST

The Congress is working on stitching together a coalition government in Jharkhand minus Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren, who is not interested in discussing any deal which does not make him the chief minister of the state.

Sources in the Congress state that the party is in touch with all other smaller parties and independents and by their own arithmetic have reached the magic figure of 41, which is the required majority mark with the party working quietly to put together what they call a stable government.

With the Congress and Marandi's Jharkhand Vikas Morcha at 25, the Lalu Yadav's RJD at 5, the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) at 5 and 6 Independents in touch with the Congress, the figure reaches 41.

As of now, 5 MLAs of Soren's JMM are learnt to have given an assurance to the Congress leadership that they would either abstain or be absent during the vote of confidence, which the new chief minister would be required to take on the floor of the assembly.

Sources say that this figure may increase and such a situation would only help the ruling party to bring down the majority mark. There are also apprehensions that the Congress may launch a Haryana type operation and split some of these parties, including the JMM to give the state a "stable government".

It is interesting, that out of the 6 independent MLAs, many of them have a chequered history. Former Chief Minister Madhu Koda's wife Geeta Koda who has won is in touch with the Congress even though it was at the initiative of the party that Madhu Koda was arrested and is currently in jail.

Speaking of jail, two of the other independents who are in touch with the Congress Hari Narain Rai and Ennos Ekka are both in jail while there are vigilance cases against another independent MLA Bandhu Thirkey who is also in touch with the Congress.

As far as the chief ministership goes, hectic lobbying is going on. Union Minister and MP from Jharkhand Subodh Kant Sahay is lobbying hard to get to the chief minister's chair as a number of senior Congress leaders have lost the election.

He is reported to be backed by Parimal Nathwani, who is linked to the Reliance industries, Mumbai-based corporate led by Mukesh Ambani.

Nathwani has, reportedly, thrown his weight behind Subodh Kant Sahay. Nathwani is Rajyasabha MP from Jharkhand.
Babu Lal Marandi, of course is the really serious chief ministerial candidate as it was only after a tie up with him that the Congress was able to regain some degree of credibility and won seats because of an alliance with him.

Marandi, who is one of the few leaders, who still enjoys credibility in the state has put up a more than credible performance in the elections and if the Congress had given him more seats, he would probably have won more, say state Congress leaders.

While Jharkhand is perceived to be a predominantly tribal state, it would not be easy for the congress to push aside a tribal like Marandi and make a non-tribal the chief minister of the state but the party is known to create arguments depending upon which way the decision is going.

Senior Congress leaders say that Shibu Soren would not like to be left in the cold with as many as 18 MLAs having won from his party. They are hopeful that the MLAs and his family members will put pressure on him to see reason and give up his chief ministerial demand even as Soren is also playing the waiting game, unwilling to give up under pressure.

Renu Mittal in New Delhi