JMM Fears Repeat of 'Bitter Past' in RS Polls Despite Alliance With Congress
There are two seats in Jharkhand which will go to polls on March 23 as the term of Congress MP Pradip Kumar Balmuchu and JMM's Sanjeev Kumar ends on April 3.

Ranchi: The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) is treading cautiously after Congress extended an olive branch to it by accepting to work under JMM leadership in Jharkhand just days before Rajya Sabha elections are held.

JMM leader Hemant Soren on Wednesday met Congress president Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi but refused to divulge much. Back in Ranchi, JMM leaders told News18 on phone that any final decision would be taken by Guru Ji, as Shibu Soren is popularly known in the state.

Just a couple of days ago, Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao had dialed Hemant to explore possibilities of a non-BJP non-Congress third front and the latter had endorsed such initiatives. However, the state Congress president Ajoy Kumar roped in Hemant as the grand old party is trying tooth and nail to increase its Rajya Sabha tally.

There are two seats in Jharkhand which will go to polls on March 23 as the term of Congress MP Pradip Kumar Balmuchu and JMM's Sanjeev Kumar ends on April 3.

In the present strength of 80 member assembly, a candidate needs at least 27 votes to secure victory. The ruling BJP has 43 members and four MLAs of ally All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) are supporting the government.

JMM spokesman Vinod Pandey said that the party has acceded to the demands of Congress to field its candidate. The JMM has 18 MLAs and Congress has 7 members.

Two other MLAs of Babulal Marandi's Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) might extend support. Pandey and Congress spokesman Lal Kishorenath Shahdeo claimed support of two MLAs belonging to CPI (ML) and BSP. However, four independents can turn the tables. Three of them - Bhanu Pratap Shahi, Geeta Koda, Anosh Ekka - have been voting in favour of the ruling BJP alliance in the assembly.

A glance at the last three RS elections in the state can easily summarise the challenge of the opposition as NDA again will not hesitate to field a second candidate or back any Independent.

In the earlier biennial elections, BJP won both the seats as two from the opposition camp voted in their favour. One each from Congress and JMM did not cast vote. Congress MLA Nirmala Devi and JMM MLA Chamra Linda had lodged complaints of horse trading against closes aides of CM Raghubar Das.

2012 elections were also marred by controversy as Independent candidate RK Agrawal was accused of trying to buy votes of two MLAs. JMM MLA Sita Soren was subsequently arrested and she is now out on bail.

Recounting the past, JMM leader Pandey said, "Numerically, the other seat will come to us but we are indeed worried as dirty tricks can be applied. Ethically, BJP should not field or back a second candidate. But like Congress they too want to increase tally in the upper house."

Shahdeo of Congress feels that the past would not be repeated as far as newly stitched alliance with JMM is concerned. However, JMM leaders are worried and even Pandey recounted how the Congress pulled out of alliance before 2014 general election.

"Everything should be on paper. This is what Guru ji wants. Our leader Hemant will apprise about the meeting with Rahul on Thursday and then after any decision would be taken," he said.

Obviously, the NDA wants to take away the second seat with the help of 20 surplus votes and wooing six other MLAs but the BJP has not opened up its cards. However, sources told News18 that the name of Sambit Patra and Arjun Munda were doing the rounds.

On the other hand, Congress state leaders want to field Dhiraj Sahu or Rajendra Singh. However, Shahdeo conceded that the party high command can decide to send someone from central leadership and Abhishek Manu Singhvi could be the one.