The Congress broke off its alliance with the ruling JMM in poll-bound Jharkhand on Friday after sharing power for about 16 months, boosting the chances of the BJP which has seen a string of electoral successes this year.
The separation came following strong disagreement over sharing of seats for the five-phase polls scheduled to begin on November 25 in the tribal-dominated state.
Chief minister Hemant Soren, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)’s most powerful young face, wasted no time in announcing that his party would take this as an opportunity to prove its mettle by contesting all 81 assembly seats, accusing the Congress of ditching him at the last minute.
Congress leaders said the party would contest the election along with RJD and JD (U), a combine that tasted success in August in the Bihar by-polls.
“It had become imperative for us to separate in the larger interest of our party and senior leaders,” said Congress’ general secretary and Jharkhand in-charge B K Hariprasad.
Congress insiders said the JMM was unwilling to part with a few seats, mainly Ghatsila, Jamtara and Pakur.
The JMM has sitting legislators in the three constituencies, but the Congress was adamant that its alliance partner vacate the seats to accommodate its senior leaders, said sources.
“They pressurised us to contest only 41 seats. We agreed. Even then they ditched us at the last moment. The Congress’s move is apparently aimed at giving the BJP a walkover,” said JMM vice-president Vinod Pandey.
Despite winning the Haryana and Maharashtra polls this month the BJP was wary of taking on the grand UPA alliance comprising Congress, JMM, RJD and JD (U) in the state, said analysts. That’s no longer the case.
“Keep watching the developments as they unfold in our favour,” said an elated Raghuvar Das, a probable chief ministerial candidate for Bhartiya Janata Party.
Congress’s talks with the Babulal Marandi-led JVM-P for a possible alliance also fell through in the evening reportedly over seat sharing. The two parties contested the 2009 assembly polls together and bagged a total of 25 seats.
The JMM-Congress separation has also cast doubts over the continuation of the Hemant Soren government. Both the Congress and the RJD are reportedly planning to withdraw support pushing the government into minority, which would mean polls will be held under President’s rule.
JMM insiders said Soren may not wait for the withdrawal of support and choose to resign.
This will be the third assembly poll in Jharkhand which was carved out of Bihar in 2000. Since then the state has seen nine chief ministers and three stints of President’s Rule.