State Cong coalition cry in Delhi

New Delhi, Feb. 6: A group of state Congress leaders met their seniors here today urging them to push for formation of a new coalition in Jharkhand, with the despairing bunch told to wait longer for the high command to reconsider a fresh alliance with the JMM.

On their second trip to the capital in the last three weeks to impress upon the Congress leadership that the party should not "lose out on an opportunity like this", they insisted that joining hands with the JMM was the only "viable option" under the present circumstances.

The section of state Congress leaders, whose discomfiture is seemingly growing with the steady tenure of President's Rule, included legislators Geeta Shree Oraon, Saurabh Narayan Singh, Banna Gupta, Anant Pratap Deo and Rajesh Ranjan.

They met the likes of Digvijaya Singh and the party's Jharkhand in-charge Shakeel Ahmed. Sources said they also sought an appointment with Congress president Sonia Gandhi's political secretary Ahmad Patel.

On the other hand, state Congress president Pradeep Balmuchu called on party stalwarts separately and apprised them of the sentiments of local leaders.

Ahmed confirmed that most of the MLAs were keen that the party came forward to explore the possibility of government formation in the state but added that at the higher level, opinions were divided.

"Many MLAs are of the view that we should join hands with the JMM in Jharkhand, but the final decision is still due. We are expecting a meeting soon with party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi over the issue. For now, nothing is certain," he said.

While the Congress has 13 seats in the 82-member Jharkhand Assembly, JMM and RJD have 18 and 5 respectively.

With Independent MLAs by their side, the Congress and JMM are expected to reach the majority number (42) required to form government in Jharkhand. "It's been close to a month now that the Assembly has been under President's Rule. We now expect executive powers to be handed back to the elected representatives. Now, the focus should on entering into a partnership with the JMM and others to end the crisis," said an MLA, requesting anonymity.

Another MLA added that "expectations and apprehensions" of state Congress leaders had been conveyed to the party leadership and now it was up to the latter to take a final call.

"We have had a long meeting with our seniors here and have told them what the general mood in the state wing is like. Now, we have left the final judgement on the high command," he said.

Party insiders maintained that even as divergent opinions were emerging within, a majority backed a long-term policy on coalition with JMM.

"While JMM is an ally at the Centre, the leadership is in two minds on joining hands with it in Jharkhand. We, therefore, want that a policy is worked out keeping in mind the next Lok Sabha and Assembly elections," an MLA told The Telegraph.

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