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Saturday, November 11, 2000

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Congress divided over supporting Soren

PATNA, NOV.10. Sharp differences among Congress(I) MLAs over extending support to the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (S) president, Mr. Sibu Soren, in his bid for Chief Ministership of Jharkhand have resulted in a delay in the party making its stand public, even as the National Democratic Alliance, appears set to form government.

The delay in the Congress(I) announcing its support seems to have given Mr. Soren the jitters as he described it as ``unexpected'' and ``bound to create confusion.''

Talking to PTI, he said: ``though I am confident of the Congress' backing, the unexpected delay in making public its support is creating confusion.''

The AICC general-secretary in charge of Bihar, Ms. Mohsina Kidwai, who is here to oversee preparations for the November 12 election of the Congress president, said the talks with the JMM(S) were still in a preliminary stage and a final decision would be taken by the Congress Working Committee.

A senior Congress functionary said there was a sharp divergence of views on supporting Mr. Soren and that the possibility of a split could not be ruled out. At least four of the 11 party MLAs from Jharkhand were against the proposal.

He said four Congress Ministers at yesterday's Legislature Party meeting deprecated any attempt to support Mr. Soren, particularly in view of his involvement in the JMM bribery scandal. ``The NDA has the mandate to form the Government, is the stand of the four mlas, while others feel that the matter should be left to the party high command,'' he said.

The PCC acting chief, Mr. Chandan Bagchi, and the CLP leader, Mr. Furkan Ansari, at whose residence the meeting took place, said the MLAs had authorised the high command to take a final decision.

Mr. Soren is likely to leave for Ranchi tomorrow to garner the support of the parties opposed to the NDA. The CPI with two members, has decided to give him outside support and the CPI-ML and the MCC with one member each are likely to follow suit.

Though Mr. Soren is assured of the support of the nine-member RJD, the backing of the Congress and independents is crucial.

Meanwhile, the NDA is confident of settling the issue amicably with the BJP vice-president, Mr. Kailashpati Mishra, saying the person nominated by the high command would become the Chief Minister. He said both the aspirants, Mr. Babu lal Marandi and Mr. Karia Munda, would abide by the decision.

The 32-member BJP legislature party is meeting in Ranchi on November 14 to elect its leader.


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