Wary Cong weighs Ranchi plunge

New Delhi, Jan. 9: Jharkhand may suffer another spell of President's rule as the Congress needs time to sort out "a host of issues" with the JMM before getting into a relationship with a party that had no qualms about running a government with the BJP.

The uncertainty is set to persist for a while as governor S. Ahmed has not yet sent any recommendation to the Union home ministry, though he has sent a report on the events that led to chief minister Arjun Munda's resignation.

Sources said the governor might like to explore the possibilities of an alternative government before recommending President's rule. If he does recommend President's rule, it would be the second time in less than three years that the state would come under central rule.

The Congress high command today appeared indifferent to the JMM's overtures on installing an alternative government and asked Hemant Soren, whose father Shibu Soren heads the party, to discuss matters with state leaders. Congress leaders from Jharkhand also argued with their central counterparts not to waste time.

But Sonia Gandhi isn't obviously in the mood to take the plunge without working out an agreeable plan of action. Even her political secretary Ahmed Patel, who decides the details of any political arrangement, avoided meeting Soren.

Asked if an alternative government was possible, a senior Congress leader said: "No decision has been taken as yet but it is very difficult."

Jharkhand Congress legislature party leader Rajinder Singh met general secretary Janardan Dwivedi and Ahmed Patel along with 10 MLAs and pleaded for installing a government.

But he sang a different tune while speaking with The Telegraph. "We explained before these leaders the political situation in the state and left the decision to their wisdom. All the MLAs will abide by the decision of the high command," he said.

The subdued tone may have been the result of their failure to convince the high command to form a government on the terms set by the JMM.

Sources said Sonia was interested in exploring the viability of a stable government in Jharkhand but was sceptical of the JMM leadership's commitments. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, too, is against inducting Shibu Soren into the Union government as part of the deal for an alliance.

The Congress would have preferred a government led by a party chief minister, which is not acceptable to the JMM that has more MLAs. The JMM has 18 MLAs in the 82-member Assembly. The Congress has 13.

A Congress leader who has advised Sonia against participating in, or propping up, any JMM government, said the break-up with the BJP happened because of the chief minister's post, as the "rotation formula" was apparently not accepted. "In this case, we should be careful in sending out a message that we were a willing partner in the toppling game and went out of our way to facilitate Hemant Soren's personal ambitions."

But the negotiations are taking place as some leaders recognise the pathetic state of the Congress in the state and believe that winning even a single seat in the 2014 general election would be difficult without the JMM's support.

A clear scenario will emerge in the next few days, or weeks, though sources in the government ruled out the possibility of immediate dissolution of the Assembly.

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