The ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and the Congress have started closed-door talks to form an alternative government in Jharkhand after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formally withdrew support to the Shibu Soren-led government on Monday.
BJP leaders on Monday met Jharkhand Governor MOH Farook and handed over a letter affirming withdrawal of the party's support to Chief Minister Shibu Soren, who also heads the JMM.
The five-month-old Soren government was reduced to minority after the BJP, a junior partner in the ruling coalition, withdrew support, plunging the state into political uncertainty yet again.
The BJP has a strength of 18 in the 81-member assembly and the ruling JMM also has 18 members. Of the other coalition-partners, the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) has five members and the Janata Dal-United two.
The Congress has 14 legislators, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P) has 11, Rashtirya Janata Dal 5 and the rest of the legislators are Independents or represent smaller parties. To form a government, a coalition will need the support of at least 41 legislators.
"Now we will form a United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in the state," Teklal Mahto, a senior JMM leader who was opposing a BJP-led government in the state, told reporters after returning from New Delhi.
He returned to Ranchi along with Subodh Kant Sahay, the Congress Lok Sabha member representing Ranchi and central minister for food processing industries.
"Efforts will be made to form an alternative government in Jharkhand. Our central leaders will take a decision on the political situation," Sahay told reporters.
Jharkhand Congress president Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu, who is camping in New Delhi, told reporters: "We are not in favour of president's rule and a popular government should be formed in Jharkhand."
According to sources, the Congress wants to lead the alternative government in the state while the JMM wants Soren to continue as chief minister.
"There will be several rounds of talks at different level. The first priority of the Congress is to lead the alternative government in Jharkhand. All major parties except the Congress have got a chance to lead Jharkhand government. Now our leaders want to lead the government," a senior Congress leader told IANS.
Congress will come to the forefront after the JMM formally approaches the party for government formation, he said.
Jharkhand has been facing a political crisis since April 27 when Soren voted against the BJP's cut motions in the Lok Sabha. This led the BJP to announce withdrawal of support from the JMM April 28. But April 30, the BJP put its withdrawal decision on hold.
On May 8, the JMM announced that it would support the BJP. Ten days later, May 18, the BJP agreed to a rotation of power with Soren. On May 20, however, Soren refused to quit and announced that talks were on with both the BJP and the Congress for formation of an alternative government in the state.