Congress general secretary B.K. Hariprasad had confirmed the divorce in a text message to the ally on Friday morning, barely 25 days before the Assembly polls, after the failure of three days of seat talks in Delhi.
“Sorry, we agree for disagreement,” said the text message to chief minister Hemant Soren’s political adviser, Himanshu Shekhar Choudhary.
Congress leaders have claimed that the alliance split because of a single seat, Pakur, where former state Speaker Alamgir Alam’s legitimate claims could not have been sacrificed.
Many in the party questioned this logic, while others doubted whether it was the real reason for the break-up.
They cited how the Congress had abandoned all its seat claims in Bihar before the general election and accepted crumbs thrown by Lalu Prasad, leaving many state and central leaders aghast.
Lalu Prasad had denied seats even to veterans such as former Union minister Shakeel Ahmed, former minister and legislature party chief Sadanand Singh, former state unit presidents Mehboob Ali Kaiser and Ramjatan Sinha, and probably the party’s strongest candidate, Awadhesh Singh. Yet the Congress high command had played along on the plea of a “larger secular unity”.
Many in the party are therefore asking how the Congress could now have let the JMM alliance unravel over a single seat, especially after Janata Dal United leader Sharad Yadav’s warning that the rampaging BJP would wrest the key state of Bihar if it were not stopped in Jharkhand.
The dominant view in the Congress is that most party candidates would lose their deposit in Jharkhand and the BJP would romp home.
Those who doubt the single-seat explanation have pointed to a communication from senior Jharkhand leaders to Sonia Gandhi a few days ago that advocated snapping the alliance.
This was at a time the high command’s Jharkhand minder, Hariprasad, was declaring that the Congress would fight the election under Soren’s leadership.
These sources highlighted an irony: state leaders who had slogged to keep the alliance intact ahead of the Lok Sabha elections had turned advocates of the go-solo theory in the Assembly polls.
Asked what could have changed in six months, a Congress source suggested: “Those who wanted to contest the Lok Sabha elections fought for the alliance with the JMM to ensure their own victories.”
Now, they were justifying the break-up, saying it would allow the party to expand its base in Jharkhand by contesting most of the seats.
But if that was the goal, the sceptics ask, why was the alliance not broken just after the general election instead of wasting time on seat negotiations?
What worries many in the Congress is the recurrence of a pattern in state after state without any sign of lessons being learnt.
Just over a month ago, the party had parted ways with the NCP --- again, just days before the Maharashtra elections.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the National Conference divorced the Congress a few months ago, after enjoying the fruits of power with its support for six years.
And the way the Telangana Rashtra Samiti dumped the Congress after getting the new state created is too fresh in party members’ minds. This too happened days before electioneering began in Telangana.
If that were not enough, the Congress leadership continued to nurse illusory hopes of a pre-general election alliance with the AUDF in Assam, DMK in Tamil Nadu, Trinamul in Bengal and the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh till the end.
Although the party leadership blamed the general election debacle on anti-incumbency and Narendra Modi’s “false promises”, chaos and confusion in candidate-selection, campaigning and management of personnel was in full display as in the preceding Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi.
Many senior leaders have complained to Rahul at the ongoing review meetings that the Congress lacks an effective election strategy, an impression the Jharkhand fiasco is likely to strengthen.
-The Telegraph, Calcutta