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Now, JMM sets sights on Chhattisgarh
Indo-Asian News Service, PTI
Ranchi, October 13, 2003
First Published: 13:05 IST(9/10/2003)
Last Updated: 15:16 IST(13/10/2003)

Altough the Congress and BJP are the traditional rivals in the state, a new party is likely to make its maiden foray into Chhattisgarh this time around.

The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) is preparing to fight the upcoming assembly elections in Chhattisgarh on its own if a proposed alliance with the ruling Congress party does not work out, sources said.

The JMM is Jharkhand's main opposition party and has no legislator in Chhattisgarh and so is keen on reaching some arrangement with the Congress for the ballot expected to take place in November.

But even if that doesn't work out, it will field candidates, banking on JMM chief Shibu Soren's popularity among the Santhal tribals living in Chhattisgarh, said party leaders.

"We are ready to fight up to 10 seats in alliance with the Congress," Soren said.

But the JMM's ambitions for Chhattisgarh are limited at the moment.

"Our main objective is to make our presence felt in Chhattisgarh. And we will be happy even if five legislators win on our ticket," a party source added.

The party has already started short-listing its candidates. And to show that it means business, it has approached some independent legislators and dissenting second-rung leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress' main foe in Chhattisgarh.

The party is banking on tribal support in Chhattisgarh since it has campaigned extensively for a tribal state in Jharkhand.

Soren is also in favour of a "Greater Jharkhand", one that would include parts of Chhattisgarh, Orissa and West Bengal.

It is an idea that many tribals also support.

The response of the Congress is not known. Until now, the Congress has given no indication that it is looking for any tie-up with any party in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi on its own.

However, political analysts say the Congress wants to take the JMM along in Jharkhand, which is ruled by BJP.

According to political sources, the JMM is thinking of backing the Congress in most of Jharkhand's Lok Sabha seats while the Congress would back it in a maximum number of assembly constituencies.


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