State Cong looks to Sonia

Ranchi, March 5: Sonia Gandhi may have snubbed the JMM, but state Congress leaders still harbour hopes of being asked to cobble together an alliance and form an alternative government in Jharkhand now under President's Rule for one and a half months.

Senior leaders like state party chief Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu, MP Subodh Kant Sahay, legislature party leader Rajendra Prasad Singh, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes chairman Rameshwar Oraon and MLA Chandra Shekhar Dubey are camping in Delhi in the hope of meeting Sonia to chalk out their next course of action.

The leaders held a meeting among themselves in Delhi along with Shakeel Ahmed, the party's Jharkhand in-charge, and decided to approach Sonia to clarify whether they should go ahead with initiatives to form an alternative government in the state or get ready for fresh Assembly elections.

"We are likely to secure an appointment with Sonia Gandhi in a day or two. We will request her to clear the air as such uncertainty should not linger long in the larger interest of the party. Our delegation will meet Rahul Gandhi, P. Chidambaram, A.K. Anthony and other party heavyweights and apprise them of the ground realities in Jharkhand," said Sahay.

During today's deliberations, the leaders agreed that no Congress delegation from the state had formally approached the party president on the issue of government formation. "We haven't pleaded our case with other senior party leaders either," said a Congressman, adding that media hype was complicating matters unnecessarily.

Thereafter, the leaders spoke to some party MLAs and realised that most were in favour of a shot at government-formation. Finally, Balmuchu was asked to approach Sonia and the others for an appointment.

But, according to sources, neither Rahul nor Sonia's political secretary Ahmed Patel were available in Delhi.

The JMM was, meanwhile, putting up a brave front. While party chief Shibu Soren insisted that backroom efforts were in the final stages to form an alternative government, his son and former deputy chief minister Hemant clarified that withdrawal of support to the Arjun Munda-led government was a planned move.

Without naming the Congress, he blamed parties that had gone back on their word to back a JMM�led government. "Why have these parties gone on the backfoot now? Such leaders would be taught an appropriate lesson during the next elections," he told a gathering yesterday in Giridih while celebrating the party's foundation day.

But, Congress leaders dismissed Hemant's comments as empty threats. "First, both Congress and JMM leaders will have to clarify who all will be supporting them in the Vidhan Sabha. Further, if the JMM can pull down the Munda government after it completed 11 months in office, where is the guarantee that it will not do the same with the Congress?" said Congress spokesman Radha Krishna Kishore.