The possibility of a coalition government emerged in Jharkhand on Friday after the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) announced it would form the next government with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP, however, said a decision would be taken only after consulting the party central leadership.
Hemlal Murmu, a senior JMM leader and legislator, said: “We will form the next government in Jharkhand with BJP.”
Efforts to cobble up a coalition in the state had been stuck as the JMM refused to accept anything less than the chief minister’s post for its chief Shibu Soren.
Karuna Shukla, BJP in-charge of Jharkhand, said state party president Raghubar Das was in talks with the JMM.
She said that any decision on an alliance with the JMM can only be taken after consultation with the party’s central leadership.
“The new party MLAs (member of legislative assembly) will meet tomorrow (Saturday) to elect the legislative party leader. They will also give their opinion on formation of the new government,” Ms. Shukla said.
Assembly polls result Dec 23 threw up a fractured mandate with the Congress and its ally, the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P) together winning 25 seats, while the JMM and the BJP won 18 each.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) have five seats each. The Janata Dal-United (JD-U), a BJP ally, has two seats. The state assembly has 81 seats and the simple majority mark is 41.
According to informed sources, the BJP has demanded minimum seven cabinet berths, including the deputy chief minister’s post, to support Mr. Soren as chief minister.
The AJSU, on the other hand, has demanded at least three cabinet berths and a post of deputy chief minister for its party president Sudesh Mahto.
Both the BJP and AJSU have also demanded key portfolios like power, rural development, mines and geology and roads.
Sources said that the JMM has agreed to give deputy chief minister’s post to both BJP and AJSU and five and two cabinet berths, respectively.
JMM sources said that Mr. Soren is likely to meet the state governor Saturday to stake claim to forming the new government.
Meanwhile, the Congress and JVM-P held their own round of political slugfest to stitch together a coalition keeping the JMM out.
JVM-P president Babulal Marandi said Soren’s demand was unacceptable. “There could be a government without the JMM,” Mr. Marandi told reporters here.
A Congress leader said, “In the given scenario, it is difficult to form the government as the JMM sticks to its demand of the chief minister’s post. We have not given up hope of government formation but at the same time, it is not an easy task. We are exploring the possibilities of a government without JMM.”
The Congress could form a government without JMM by seeking support of the RJD and the Independents.
The JMM started to show conciliatory moves towards the BJP Thursday night when Mr. Soren said he did not term the saffron party as “communal”.
“I never termed BJP a communal party. BJP is not a communal party,” he maintained.
When it was pointed out that the BJP had, in the past, made statements against him, Mr. Soren quipped: “Who remembers the past?”
The BJP had stalled parliament in July 2004 when a 30-year-old arrest warrant pending against Soren surfaced.
Earlier Friday, the JMM elected Mr. Soren, a Lok Sabha MP, as the leader of its legislative party.
Champai Soren, a JMM legislator, said: “Shibu Soren will take the decision regarding formation of the government. The JMM has the clear view that Shibu Soren should become the next chief minister.”