Jharkhand may head for Assembly elections as UPA may not be able to extend Pres Rule

Senior Congress leaders have indicated that despite “deep discussions within the party”, it is unlikely to ally with regional parties to form government in the state before six months of President’s Rule in Jharkhand ends on July 18. In the last two weeks, state and central Congress leaders have held several meetings with leaders from Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM).

“Congress leadership wants a clean administration and a government which is above board and inspires confidence among the people in the state and second, Congress must be able to stand on its own,” said Union minister for rural development Jairam Ramesh on a two-day visit to Ranchi. “My sense is that Jharkhand is ready for a revitalized Congress,” said the minister who is focussing on reorganizing the party’s ground cadre before the assembly and Lok Sabha elections and is expected to make a second visit to Sahebganj in Santhal Pargana later this month.

On June 3, the minister attended the parha jatra, a congregation of tribal religious and social leaders, in Bero in Ranchi accompanied by newly-appointed Jharkhand Congress Chief Sukhdeo Bhagat and Congress MLA Geetashree Oraon, the daughter of prominent former Congress leader Kartik Oraon.

JMM which has 18 MLAs in the 82 member Assembly had proposed forming government with Congress’ 13 MLAs, the support of five MLAs of Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) as well as Independents. It had posed itself as crucial ally for the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

But even as JMM had intensified efforts to reach out to Congress last month, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) got permission from the Speaker CP Singh on May 18 in the cash for votes scam of 2012 to file a chargesheet against eight MLAs, including those from JMM, Congress and RJD – the alliance the party may have counted on if it chose to form a government – throwing a question over the possibility of such an alliance. The CBI filed its first chargesheet in the case on Tuesday against five persons including JMM MLA Sita Soren, the daughter-in-law of Shibu Soren.

At the same time, Congress leaders acknowledged that the UPA is not in a position to extend the President’s Rule in the state for another six months given its position in the Rajya Sabha and described it as a “huge challenge”.

“Even if the central government dissolves the assembly now, the election commission is unlikely to be prepared to hold elections till after the monsoon. This will also give time to senior officials including former CRPF Director General K Vijay Kumar, Madhukar Gupta, the new Chief Secretary R S Sharma all appointed during the President’s Rule to carry out administrative measures initiated after January,” said a political observer.