The Rajya Sabha election for two seats in Jharkhand reached the flash point on Thursday with the unexpected turn of events - withdrawal of nomination by NRI businessman and independent candidate Anshuman Mishra and Congress coaxing the JMM to sever ties with alliance partner BJP over the latter's decision to abstain from voting.
Dumped by the BJP, Mishra did not come to the assembly on Thursday. His lawyer submitted a plea before the assembly secretary saying that his client wants to withdraw. BJP legislator Barkuwar Gagrai - one of the proposers - was present.
The request was admitted soon and Mishra's nomination was withdrawn around 3 pm, leaving five candidates in the fray for the two seats that would fall vacant next month.
The withdrawal holds significance in the backdrop of top BJP leaders divided over supporting Mishra. Finally, BJP national president Nitin Gadkari stepped in and doused the heat generated in the party camp by announcing that the BJP legislators in Jharkhand will abstain from voting.
"We have received our national general secretary, Anant Kumar's fax directing us to abstain from voting," state BJP president Dineshanand Goswami said, adding, "It would be a sensible decision to distance from the polls where there are accusations of horse trading."
Mishra's nomination withdrawal, meanwhile, did little to drench the flaring tension between two ruling alliance partners the BJP and JMM with the latter opening up a front to express its grievance against the former's decision to abstain from voting. "We are now free to take an independent decision," deputy chief minister Hemant Soren of the JMM said.
Senior JMM and Congress leaders apparently discussed the possibility of a new alliance behind closed doors wherein, according to reliable sources, Congress offered Hemant Soren the chief minister's post.
Speculations gained ground when Congress legislator Mannan Mallik met JMM president Sibu Soren in the morning and later hinted at possibilities of a new coalition government in Jharkhand.
Congress in-charge of Jharkhand affairs Shakeel Ahmad, camping in Jharkhand to sort out issues with the JVM (P) over a common Rajya Sabha candidate, said the question doesn't arise till the JMM and BJP were together. "The Congress will think over the possibilities only if the JMM severed ties with the BJP," he said.
Senior JMM leaders, however, declined that the party had any intention of joining hands with the Congress. Chief minister Arjun Munda said there was no imminent threat to his coalition government.
The sudden spurt of developments also raised alarm in the JVM (P). Party's Rajya Sabha candidate and general secretary Praveen Singh said it revealed Congress' dual character.
Singh said, "While on one hand, the Congress is in league with us for support for their Rajya Sabha candidate Pradeep Kumar Balmuchhu, on the other it is trying to coax the JMM for their votes."
Shakeel Ahmad had met JVM (P) legislator party leader Pradeep Yadav in the forenoon to work out a formula to get support for his party candidate, Pradeep Kumar Balmuchhu.
Yadav, sources said, remained adamant on bargaining for Hatia assembly seat in its kitty besides nominating one from the party for the National SC/ST chairman's post at the Center in lieu of his party legislators vote for Balmuchhu.
Balmuchhu, who is state Congress president, said the party was giving a serious thought to the demands. He, however, said being a national party, the Congress could not take decisions in Jharkhand.
JVM (P) chief Babulal Marandi, however, pointed out that the Congress during 2010 biennial election had promised to leave one seat for them in the next election. "It's time now for the Congress to keep its promise."