President’s Rule comes to an end in the State on July 18

The Congress is on the brink of taking a decision to form a government with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in Jharkhand, ahead of the conclusion of President’s Rule on July 18. A formal announcement could come as early as Thursday, senior party sources said, even as two high-level meetings were held here through the day.

At the first, in the morning, Congress president Sonia Gandhi held consultations with Defence Minister A.K. Antony — who also heads the party sub-group on alliances — her Political Secretary Ahmed Patel, party general secretaries B.K. Hariprasad and Shakeel Ahmed, along with PCC chief Sukhdeo Bhagat and CLP leader Rajendra Singh, who returned from Ranchi on Tuesday evening after negotiations with JMM leaders.

Later in the evening, Mr. Antony had another round of discussions with Mr. Patel, Mr. Hariprasad, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and JMM leader Hemant Soren.

Mr. Soren, who was deputy chief minister in the earlier government, is the son of Shibu Soren.

However, the main impetus for the Congress’ change of heart about forming a government in the Leftwing-Extremism affected State is the Lok Sabha elections of 2004. A senior party functionary pointed out that back in 2004, the Congress’ alliance with the JMM and the Rashtriya Janata Dal had delivered the UPA 12 of 14 Lok Sabha seats from the State. Currently, the Congress, which has just one MP from the State, is driving a hard bargain and wants to contest in at least eight of the 14 Lok Sabha seats, with two for the RJD.

A corollary reason for getting together with the JMM — despite the latter’s less-than-pristine record — is that since its formation in 2000, the Congress has never been part of any government in the State: it has been ruled either by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the JMM and once, by an independent, Madhu Koda. “If we join the government,” a party leader said, “it will give our MLAs an opportunity to be in a position to become ministers and begin the process of political recovery that [could not] be done during President’s Rule.”

The Congress, the senior party sources said, was aware that forming a government in Jharkhand in which the RJD was a partner, would have “political repercussions in Bihar.” As things stand, the Janata Dal (United), which had two MLAs in Jharkhand, has made it clear that it cannot join a government of which the RJD is a part. The Congress, thus far, has kept its options open on a possible electoral ally in Bihar for 2014 — it could go either with the RJD, the JD(U) or — if really brave — go it alone.

The government is likely to be led by the 18-MLA-strong JMM, with the support of the Congress (11), the RJD (5) and independent legislators (6).