After hectic negotiations with Congress leaders in Ranchi and Delhi last week, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leaders hope that Congress will announce its willingness for an alliance this week. Six months of President’s Rule imposed in Jharkhand ends on July 18. Senior JMM leaders said the Congress’ central leadership would be ready to ally with the JMM with an eye on a potential tie-up in the Lok Sabha election.

“Congress benefited immensely from allying with JMM before the general election in 2004. In 2009, this number reduced because of Shibu Soren’s ill health, which did not permit him to actively take part in the election campaign,” said a senior JMM leader. The United Progressive Alliance had won 10 of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand — six by Congress and four by JMM — in the 2004 general election. In 2009, this number fell to three with Congress winning only in Ranchi.

“We are hopeful that Congress leaders realise that the JMM is a crucial partner in the State Assembly and the general election. Guruji’s (Shibu Soren) support in the forthcoming general election will benefit not only in Jharkhand but even in some parts of West Bengal and Odisha which have substantial Santal population,” he said.

When the JMM withdrew support to Arjun Munda-led BJP government this January, the ambition of JMM MLA and Deputy Chief Minister in the Munda government, Hemant Soren, to act as Chief Minister for the remaining period of the Assembly tenure was seen as an important factor in the JMM’s decision. But the party’s decision is widely seen to have backfired and may affect the party’s position adversely if elections are held later this year, leaving the JMM leaders willing to form an alliance, with a Congress MLA as Chief Minister. Political observers say that Congress first-time MLA Geetashri Oraon, daughter of Kartik Oraon, an adivasi Congress leader who was close to Nehru, may emerge as a candidate acceptable to Congress central leadership to lead such a coalition in Jharkhand.

However, the CBI is expected to file this week a charge sheet against eight MLAs of various parties — including prominent JMM MLA and Shibu Soren’s daughter-in-law Sita Soren — in the cash-for-votes scam in the election to the Rajya Sabha in 2012 and this development may impact the Congress leadership’s decision to announce an alliance with the JMM in the same period. The CBI had got permission from Assembly Speaker C.P. Singh on May 18. Besides this, it is expected to file a charge sheet against five aides of JMM MLA Sita Soren for hiding Rs. 2.5 crore.