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Updated: April 30, 2010 00:36 IST

BJP rethink on Jharkhand

Special Correspondent
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Sushma Swaraj
PTI Sushma Swaraj

No news of withdrawal of support to Shibu Soren

In less than 24 hours after the Bharatiya Janata Party announced it would withdraw support to the Shibu Soren government in Jharkhand, the party decided to rethink its strategy.

Hope of forming a government in Jharkhand with a chief minister from its own ranks soared high as Mr. Soren's son and MLA Hemant Soren conveyed a plan for such an arrangement to the party leadership, but delayed firming it up, stringing the BJP along.

There was no news of withdrawal of support to the Soren government by the BJP till late on Thursday – appointments with the Governor were made and cancelled several times throughout the day, the last at 7 p.m. and then postponed to Friday.

An authoritative party leader said: “One thing is sure. The BJP will not continue as a junior partner of the JMM in Jharkhand. Either we will withdraw support or have our own chief minister.”

The BJP wanted Mr. Soren's resignation and a simultaneous letter of support to the BJP from the JMM to enable it to claim a substitute government.

A “political” reason for the BJP going that extra mile in its effort to keep a government in Jharkhand was that Assembly polls in Bihar were round the corner. A possible Jharkhand government that the Congress may install with the Rashtriya Janata Dal – and other parties – as partners would have a “ripple effect” on Bihar, which the BJP wanted to avoid at all costs.

Anger over the JMM chief's vote for the government in the cut motion on Tuesday, led to the BJP Parliamentary Board's decision on withdrawal of support to Mr. Soren's government. By Thursday morning Mr. Soren softened the BJP's stance by sending out apologetic letters to BJP president Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and L.K. Advani. He attributed his vote against the Opposition-sponsored cut motion to “forgetfulness,” saying it was a “mistake.” Appealing to the BJP to reconsider its ‘withdrawal of support' decision, he said the JMM was part of the National Democratic Alliance and would remain with it.

No senior BJP leader bought the story, but the “offer” of support by the 18-member strong JMM to a government led by the BJP made separately by Hemant Soren, son of Shibu Soren, was too tempting to reject summarily. A series of meetings and consultations followed through the day. The last was called late evening after the return of former party president Rajnath Singh to the capital.

An indication that the party wanted to set up an alternative government was given by the BJP deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde who said: “We will try to ensure there is no room for imposing President's Rule on the State. I do not see such a possibility.”

Those familiar with the political situation in Ranchi indicated the delay was the result of prevarication by the JMM, which was also trying to negotiate a political deal with the Congress, in whose support Mr. Soren had cast his controversial vote.

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