The battle for Jharkhand entered a decisive phase on Thursday with Congress president Sonia Gandhi stepping in to break the impasse over government formation.
She conferred with her party colleagues and Rashtriya Janta Dal’s (RJD) Lalu Prasad and then met Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief Shibu Soren who is seeking her intervention to have him installed as chief minister.
Incumbent Madhu Koda has been asked to come to New Delhi for consultations on Friday.
Koda, along with the other Independents, has been holding on reportedly with Lalu’s blessings.
The final decision on the Jharkhand imbroglio would be taken after Koda's arrival.
"We are discussing among ourselves and everybody will have the same stand. Any decision taken will be a collective one," said Ajay Maken, AICC leader in charge of Jharkhand.
But the Soren camp claims the JMM chief's chances of becoming CM have improved with Lalu reportedly softening his anti-Soren stand. The JMM leader reportedly managed to get the backing of BJP’s two suspended members, Manohar Tekriwal and Vishnu Bhaiya, and the promise of support from two JD(U) MLAs.
A section in the UPA feels Koda may step down before his trust vote on August 26 to pave the way for Soren. However, it would be left to the JMM leader and his 17 MLAs to secure 42 votes in the 81-member House.
Unwilling to annoy Lalu, the Congress has repeatedly said that its nine MLAs would back Soren but it was for him to get the numbers.
While Independents Stephen Marandi, Bhanu Pratap Shahi and Chandra Prakash Choudhary are with Koda, Joba Majhi, Enos Ekka, Hari Narayan Rai and Kamalesh Singh are keeping their cards close to their chests.
Only Bandhu Tirkey is backing Soren, who believes he has the numbers with support of JD(U) and suspended BJP members.
The JMM chief is now hoping that MLAs wanting to avoid President's Rule and early assembly polls would back him.
The Congress has stepped in now to take the steam out of the four Independent ministers not aligned with the UPA and to ensure the JMM supports the Manmohan Singh government till the nuclear deal is through.
Besides, it knows that just as it needs the RJD in Bihar, it needs the JMM in the state and Lok Sabha polls in Jharkhand.