JMM-Congress alliance on brink of collapse

JMM chief Shibu Soren has said no United Progressive Alliance (UPA) exists in Jharkhand and his party will fight elections separately.

The Congress has responded by saying it is ready to face elections alone considering the sentiment of party workers. Jharkhand is currently under President's rule and elections are expected by the end of this year.

"The grassroots workers of our party want us to go it alone in the elections. We are strengthening our base and organisation in the state to fight on our own," Rabindra Singh, spokesperson of the Jharkhand Congress, said.

Asked about Soren's statement that no UPA exists in the state, he said: "Soren is free to decide about his party. The popular sentiment of Congress party workers is to go it alone. The final decision will be taken by the central leaders of the party".

The JMM has already finalised the names of 55 candidates to fight the elections  to the 81-member assembly.

"The screening committee of the party has finalized 55 names of probable candidates. The final decision will be taken by guruji (Soren)," said Supriyo Bhattcharya, general secretary of the JMM.

Asked about the alliance with the Congress, he said: "We have forged an alliance with people of the state."

The Congress and the JMM had struck up an alliance in Jharkhand for the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. It continued in the 2005 assembly poll and in the 2009 general election.

In 2004, the alliance worked in their favour and the two parties together bagged 10 of the 14 Lok Sabha seats from the state. In the 2005 assembly elections, the JMM won 17 assembly seats. Soren became chief minister of Jharkhand in March 2005 but could not prove his majority. He was chief minister for just nine days.

Relations began souring between the two parties in 2007 when, despite being acquitted in a murder case, Soren was not inducted into the Manmohan Singh government at the centre.

In 2008, however, the JMM extended crucial support to the UPA government at the centre after the Left withdrew due to objections to the civil nuclear deal. In return, Soren was made chief minister of Jharkhand again.

But the chasm widened  in January this year when Soren lost a crucial assembly byelection. His eldest son Durga Soren, who later died, blamed the Congress for his father's defeat.

Soren therefore had to quit the post of chief minister. President's rule was imposed as no other party staked a claim to forming the government.

The 2009 general election finally may have sealed the fate of the alliance as both the parties performed poorly, with the Congress and the JMM winning one and two seats respectively. Soren himself won one of the seats.

Assembly elections are expected to be held before President's rule lapses in January next year.

From the looks of it, the two parties will go it alone in the upcoming assembly polls.
Both the Congress and the JMM are not enthusiastic about allying with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), though all three were at one time part of the UPA.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad last month met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and offered an alliance in Jharkhand. The Congress, however, wants to fight the polls alone.

"We have suffered in Bihar by having an alliance with Lalu. In Jharkhand, we have a greater presence than the RJD," said a Congress leader.

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