Major political parties in Jharkhand have announced they would go it alone in the upcoming assembly elections in what promises to be a neck-and-neck contest.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prjatantrik (JVM-P) have announced they would fight all the 81 seats on their own.
Jharkhand is under President's rule and elections are likely to take place by the end of the year.
The unilateral decision of the BJP as well as the JMM to go it alone is a setback for political parties like the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Congress. The JD-U, the BJP's alliance partner in the National Democratic Alliance as well as in Bihar, has little presence in the state.
The Congress is toiling hard to regain lost ground but partner JMM is threatening to play a spoilsport.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), however, wants to forge an alliance with the Congress and its chief Lalu Prasad met Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday to cement an alliance in Jharkhand. This has not enthused Congress leaders in the state.
The RJD too has only a marginal presence in Jharkhand. After the RJD chief met Sonia Gandhi, another key partner of the Congress-led UPA, the JMM announced it would contest the state assembly elections on its own.
"The UPA is in a tatters in Jharkhand. We will field our candidates for all the seats of the assembly," JMM chief Shibu Soren has said.
Soren's statement has surprised the Congress leaders for both the parties have been fighting elections together since the 2004 Lok Sabha polls. They also contested the 2005 assembly and 2009 general elections together. And fared poorly.
"The Congress tries to use us for its own interest. The JMM is an independent political party and we will expand our base and position in the state by going it alone," a senior JMM leader told IANS.
The JMM also thinks the Congress played foul by pushing Soren to fight the Tamar assembly byelection, which he lost in January. He had to quit as chief minister and President's rule was imposed in the state Jan 19.
The Congress is, however, tightlipped. "Nothing is decided about the alliance. The central leaders of the party will decide about it. The Congress is ready to go on its own or in alliance with the UPA partners," said Rabindra Singh, spokesperson of the Jharkhand Congress.
Enthused by the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections in Jharkhand, the BJP has often announced it would fight all the 81 seats. The party won eight of the 14 Lok Sabha seats from the state in the April-May elections.
Jharkhand BJP president Ragubar Das had said his party would go it alone, something he repeated at a party rally last month.
"The JD-U has no presence in Jharkhand. Why should we lose some seats by sharing it with the JD-U," asked a BJP leader. The JD-U, which leads the NDA alliance in neighbouring Bihar, is surprised by the BJP's statement and had announced it could also fight it out on its own if the BJP had other ideas.
The JVM-P, floated by former chief minister Babulal Marandi, has also said it would have no truck with any party. Marandi had quit the BJP in 2006 and his party managed 10.5 per cent votes in the Lok Sabha poll and bagged one seat.
Marandi is trying to convert the vote into seats in the assembly elections and aspires to play the role of a kingmaker.
In Jharkhand, even with four to five legislators, parties can play a crucial role in government formation.