Jharkhand Mukti Morcha supremo Shibu Soren is all set to become the Jharkhand chief minister with the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Janata Dal (United) and the All Jharkhand Students Union.
In a further boost to the JMM, which staked to claim government in Jharkhand, the BJP ally JD (U), which has two Members of Legislative Assembly, said it would support the party headed by Soren.
"The two MLAs of JDU and state president Jaleswar Mahto will meet this evening to give formal approval," JD-U spokesman Pramod Kumar Mishra told newsmen.
"After the meeting, a formal letter of support by the two party MLAs will be handed over to the Governor," he said.
JD-U's decision pushes up the total number of MLAs backing the JMM's bid to form the government to 44.
Gopal Krishna Patar and Sudha Choudhary are the two JD (U) MLAs.
Earlier in the day, 65-year-old Soren staked his claim before Governor K Sankaranarayanan to whom he handed over a list of 42 MLAs -- 18 each from the JMM and the BJP, five from the AJSU and one from Jharkhand Janadhikar Manch led by Bandhu Tirkey -- in the 81-member assembly.
"We have the required majority to form the new government," Soren, who was twice chief minister of the tribal state, told journalists.
"We have given the letter of support to the JMM to form the government under the leadership of Shibu Soren," BJP legislature party leader Raghuvar Das said after a meeting of party MLAs.
Soren was accompanied by Das and AJSU legislature party leader Sudesh Mahato to Raj Bhavan.
The JMM chief told the governor that he had the required majority to form the government, which would be the seventh dispensation in over nine years after the state's creation.
Asked whether the BJP would join the government, its vice-president Karuna Shukla said, "We have just given a letter of support to JMM chief Shibu Soren. We will decide after the governor invites Soren to form the government."
To a question about the two MLAs of the Janata Dal (United), an ally of the BJP, former chief minister and BJP leader Arjun Munda said the JD(U) legislature party would meet after which its decision would be conveyed to the BJP.
In the fractured verdict in the assembly polls, Congress-Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) combine secured 25 seats, followed by the BJP-JD(U) alliance (20), the JMM (18) and the AJSU (5).
Known popularly as 'Guruji', Soren resigned as chief minister in January this year after he was defeated in the assembly by-poll from Jamtara.
As no combination came forward to form a government, the state was placed under President's Rule on January 19.
Sporting a flowing beard with the looks of a godman, Soren has been beset with controversies in his more than four decades of political career.
Earlier in the day, Jharkhand Pradesh Congress Committee president Pradeep Kumar Balmachu with some Congress MLAs visited the residence of AJSU chief Sudesh Mahato, but could not meet him as he was not at home.
The Congress-JVM(P) alliance had not made any overture to Soren after the election results though Soren had said he was willing to talk to all parties, if they made him the chief minister.
JVM(P) chief Babulal Marandi had told the Congress to name a chief ministerial candidate of the alliance.
Congress leader and Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahay had expressed reservation against Soren being given a third opportunity to be the chief minister.
Born January 11, 1944, in Nemra village of Hazaribagh district (now in Ramgarh district), Soren had to cut short his education after his father was allegedly killed by moneylenders.
Soren became the chief minister of the mineral-rich state following intense manoeuvering after his party backed the United Progressive Alliance to help it sail through the trust vote in July 2008.
He joined the Union council of ministers in May 2004 but had to resign within two months after a warrant pending against him in a three-decade-old case surfaced. The case related to the Chirudih massacre in which 11 people including nine Muslims were killed.
The tribal leader, who was in the forefront of the fight for carving out a separate Jharkhand state from Bihar, returned to the Union cabinet in October 2004, and remained in the government till March 2005 when he became Jharkhand chief minister. But, he failed to prove his majority in the assembly and had to quit the post.
Soren once again returned to the Centre in 2006 and also became chairperson of the state UPA when Madhu Koda became chief minister in September 2006.
This time too he was unlucky, as he had to quit from the Union ministry in October 2006 after he was convicted and jailed for life in connection with the murder of his personal secretary Shashinath Jha in 1994.
But, a ray of hope came when he was acquitted in the murder case by the Delhi high court in 2007 and was also acquitted in the Chirudih massacre case, though he is facing trial in the Giridih district court in yet another murder case.
Image: JMM chief Shibu Soren