l Our Bureau
New Delhi : Junking an earlier move to dissolve the Jharkhand Assembly for fresh polls, the Congress on Tuesday decided to install Jharkhand Mukti Mor (JMM) supremo Shibu Soren’s son Hemant as chief minister and join his coalition government along with the Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad to give it the stability.
The deal has been struck and the formal blessing of Sonia Gandhi takes place any time from now after meeting Shibu Soren and his son. As part of the deal, the Congress and JMM will have an electoral alliance in the Lok Sabha polls in which Congress will get eight seats out of 14 in the state to contest and RJD 2. The Congress may also get the Speaker’s post in the Assembly.
This is for the first time that the Congress will be part of the government in Jharkhand unlike in the past two occasions when it supported the government of Madhu Koda in 2006 and that of Shibu Soren in 2008 from outside. This was decided to impart stability to the government as none of the governments completed 1000 days, what to say of completing full five years.
Jharkhand is under the President’s rule since after JMM pulled out of the BJP-led government and the Congress took the decision to go for a government instead of fresh elections. The President’s rule, which was clamped on January 18, ten days after the 28-month BJP government led by Arjun Munda fell, is coming to end on July 18. The BJP was pressing for fresh elections since the day the JMM ditched it.
Sonia Gandhi was opposed to aligning with the JMM, but the Narendra Modi factor worked on her to change her mind after accepting the reality that the Congress has no chance of revival of its fortunes and it may even lose the solitary Lok Sabha seat of Ranchi held by former union minister Subodh
She agreed to her aides’ view that a Congress-JMM alliance would pose a formidable challenge to the BJP which won seven Lok Sabha seats in the last election. Though the JMM won only two seats in the last election, it still retains its support base among the tribals. “Every seat counts when BJP is desperate to capture power with Modi as its star,” a top Congress leader said.
General Secretary Shakeel Ahmed, who had initiated talks with the JMM leaders during his earlier charge of Jharkhand, rushed to Ranchi with the new state in-charge general secretary Hari Prasad to hold talks with Shibu Soren ‘Guruji’ and brought him and his son Hemant to Delhi by a special flight on Tuesday to sew the deal. The father and son had a meeting with Sonia”s political secretary Ahmed Patel at his residence where Defence Minister A K Antony, heading the panel for alliances, was also present.
Though the JMM had been trying to sew up an alternative coalition with the Congress for long, Sonia was not inclined to the idea as the JMM, a former UPA ally, suffered not only an image problem but largely viewed as fickle-minded, prone to changing partners. But such dogmas are usually forgotten in war-time, particularly when the rival camp is led by the rampaging Narendra Modi.
The new coalition will have a razor-thin majority of just two seats in a House of 81. It comprises 18 MLAs of JMM, Congress 13, RJD 5 and another five belonging to All-Jharkhand Students Union who will go with “Guruji” as it did by joining the previous BJP-led government.
The Congress sources said it made it clear not to support Shibu Soren, who has been the chief minister thrice, and persuaded him to let his MLA son Hemant head the new government. Hemant is left crafty and pro-Congress, the sources explained.
The deal was struck only after the JMM agreed to the Congress demand for an electoral alliance for parliamentary election.