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Cong in talks with JMM, JVM; seeks grand alliance in Jharkhand for Lok Sabha polls

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The Congress is in talks with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha to form a grand alliance for the next Lok Sabha polls there, the AICC in-charge of the state has said.

Asserting that the party wants to forge partnerships on a state-by-state basis, AICC in-charge of Jharkhand R P N Singh said Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has made it clear that the Congress would be looking at alliances at state-level with like minded parties to take on the BJP in 2019.

In an interview to agencies, Singh said a grand alliance was on the cards in Jharkhand for the Lok Sabha polls and talks were on to “firm up things”.

“We are in talks with JMM, we are in talks with JVM. We would like a grand alliance in Jharkhand… with the JMM, JVM, RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal) and other like-minded parties. We are in talks with all political parties and those things needed to be firmed up,” the former Union minister said.

He said though talks were on for an alliance, the party was also preparing all 81 Assembly seats as Vidhan Sabha polls were also due next year and it wanted to be ready for elections whether in an alliance or alone.

Underlining that the opposition was united in the state, Singh cited the example of Rajya Sabha polls in Jharkhand where parties such as the JMM, JVM, RJD, Communist party, supported the Congress candidate.

“We spoke to all and reached out to all. We had put up a candidate, even though we had just 7 MLAs. All parties jointly supported us and we managed to win the election against the BJP,” said Singh, who is also a Congress spokesperson.

Asked if the Congress was ready to play second fiddle to regional parties in states where it was not the main opposition, Singh said it has fought on lesser seats than its coalition partners where it is not the largest opposition party, while in states such as Madhya Pradesh it had got larger shares being the leading opposition party.

He said such a “give and take will have to happen”.

Giving examples, Singh said, “In Bihar, when last state elections took place, or in the Lok Sabha elections earlier also, the Congress contested less seats than the RJD. Last time round, for the state assembly we definitely fought less seats than even Nitish Kumar or the RJD.

“In the Lok Sabha, we are already are in alliance with the RJD and definitely we will not be contesting as many seats as the RJD. Similarly in UP, in the last Vidhan Sabha (polls) we had contested with SP where we played second fiddle. So, yes you can only have an alliance where you play on your strengths and what is your position in that state,” the 54-year-old leader said.

Asked if seat-sharing in states could be a roadblock for the grand alliance to materialise, Singh said for a coalition one has to do away with egos and take into account factors such as which coalition partner and which coalition partner’s candidate was most likely to win an election.

“If people get into petty bargaining and petty egos, no coalition actually works. That is something a lot of leaders are coming around to,” he said.

On the Congress strategy for forming an alliance to take on the BJP in the general elections, he said in some states the party has managed to work on the coalitions, while in other places, it was trying to work with like-minded parties.

“We have state-wise partnerships, in the larger sense you could call it the Mahagathbandhan, but our primary focus is state to state,” Singh said.

In the assembly bypolls in May, the JMM, supported by the Congress and other opposition parties, had retained both Silli and Gomia assembly seats, ringing an alarm bell for the ruling BJP ahead of the general elections next year.

A buoyed JMM chief Hemant Soren had described it as a victory of opposition unity and had said “its heat is bound to reach Delhi”.

In the last Lok Sabha polls in 2014, the BJP had won 12 out of 14 seats and the JMM got 2, while the Congress drew a blank.

In the 82-member Jharkhand Assembly, the BJP has 43 seats, while its partner AJSU Party has 4 seats. The Congress has seven MLAs, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha 19 and JVM two.

Asked if young leaders like himself, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot would lead the Congress charge in 2019, Singh said the party chief has made it clear that there is going to be a mixture of the young and the old going forward.

“Yes, with the advent of Rahul Gandhi as the president there has been a surge in younger people getting opportunities and so there is this feeling that the charge will be led by the younger brigade, but I think, it will be a mixture (of the older and younger people),” he said.

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