“Jharkhand Cabinet’s decision recommending dissolution not binding”

The Congress will decide on its future course of action in Jharkhand, after Governor Syed Ahmed makes his recommendation following the collapse of the BJP-led government. The party does not wish to rush into any public pronouncements till the Governor either accepts Chief Minister Arjun Munda’s request to dissolve the Assembly or decides to invite the next largest party to explore the possibility of forming a new government, Congress functionary in charge of Jharkhand Shakeel Ahmed told The Hindu.

But equally, the Congress — both Mr. Ahmed and party spokesperson PC Chacko — made it clear that the Jharkhand Cabinet’s decision recommending dissolution of the Assembly was “not binding” on the Governor as it was taken after the Arjun Munda government had been reduced to a “minority.”

“The Governor,” Mr. Ahmed said, “is duty-bound to explore the possibility of forming another government before dissolving the Assembly.”

Meanwhile, opinion is divided in the Congress’ State unit on whether it should try and form a government with the 18 MLA-strong Shibu Soren-led Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), which pulled out support from the BJP-led government, leading to its fall.

The JMM, party sources said, has already approached the Congress to seek its help to form the government: the Congress has 13 MLAs in the Assembly.

If a section of the Congress is being prudent, party sources said, its caution springs from its bitter experience of supporting a government led by an independent MLA, Madhu Koda, when it faced public criticism for the irregularities that had taken place under that administration.

However, eight of the 13 Congress MLAs are currently camping in the capital to press the high command to agree to explore the possibility of forming a government in Jharkhand. “The JMM has approached the Congress,” CLP leader Rajinder Prasad Singh told PTI, adding, “If they want to talk, why can't we? They are our allies at the Centre. They voted with us twice in Parliament. The Congress’ State unit is not in favour of President’s Rule or the dissolution of the Assembly. We have apprised the AICC in-charge of Jharkhand of our views. Now a decision has to be taken by the central leadership. We will accept whatever they decide.”

Party sources also said the Congress is keeping its cards close to its chest, as it would like to be in the driver’s seat in case a new government is formed: as a party of 13 MLAs, it would have to play second fiddle to the JMM which has 18. However, if there is a brief spell of President’s Rule, then it might help the Congress arrive at a more advantageous arrangement with the JMM.

In the 82-member House, the BJP and the JMM have 18 MLAs each — the All Jharkhand Students Union (6), the Janata Dal-U (2), two independents and one nominated member, who has voting rights, were also part of the Munda government. The Congress’ strength is 13, the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (P)’s 11, the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s 5 while the CPI-ML(L), the Marxist Coordination Committee, the Jharkhand Party(Ekka), the Jharkhand Janadhikar Manch and the Jai Bharat Samta Party have one member each. There is also one independent MLA.

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