The Congress on Friday inked an agreement with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha to form a coalition government in Jharkhand and contest the next Lok Sabha election in alliance with the tribal party.
Under the agreement, while the JMM will have its chief minister in the state, the Congress will secure a lion's share of the 14 Lok Sabha seats. While the Congress will contest on 10 seats, the JMM will get four seats.
This was announced by JMM leader Hemant Soren, who will be the chief minister of the Congress-JMM coalition government in Jharkhand.
He made the announcement after a meeting with All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge for Jharkhand B K Haripasad in the party headquarters.
The alliance is not confined to Jharkhand as both parties have decided to contest the next Lok Sabha polls together in West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Chhattisgarh as well.
The symbolism was not lost as Soren's father Shibu Soren is considered a key tribal face in the country and tribals reside in substantial number in these states, especially in Chhattishgarh and Odisha.
While Chhattisgarh goes to assembly polls this year, Odisha polls will be held along with Lok Sabha elections due next year.
"When allies are deserting the National Democratic Alliance, new parties are coming to the United Progressive Alliance," said Haripasad.
In a party statement, Hariprasad said that both parties decided to form the alliance to "protect and promote secular and progressive values and to ensure the further empowerment of the weaker sections of society."
The tribal-dominated state was under President's Rule since January 18 after the collapse of the Arjun Munda-led Bharatiya Janata Party government, as the JMM withdrew support from it on January 8.
The President's Rule expires on July 18.
The Congress and the JMM had fought the 2004 Lok Sabha polls together with the Communist Party of India and the Rashtriya Janata Dal.
The grand alliance had secured 13 of the 14 Lok Sabha seats.
In the next election in 2009, when they fought separately, Congress could win only one seat and the JMM won two seats.
The coalition government in Jharkhand will function according to a common agenda of governance and a Common Minimum Programme, which will be monitored by a coordination committee.
Though there is speculation that Congress Legislature Party leader Rajinder Prasad Singh could be made the deputy chief minister, there was no such indication from the AICC.
"A common agenda of governance will be prepared and made public within two weeks of a government being formed in the state. A special committee will be set up to monitor the implementation of this common agenda. A coordination committee will also be set up to facilitate the smooth functioning of the coalition government," the AICC said in a statement.
Soren said that the agreement between the two parties is to form a "coalition government" and the Congress has assured "full support".
"If and when such a government is formed, the Indian National Congress and the JMM will work together to provide an administration that will enforce the rule of law without fear or favour," Hariprasad said.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad has already assured both the JMM and the Congress of his party's support to the new government. The Congress will accommodate the RJD from its quota of Lok Sabha seats while the JMM will decide RJD's portfolios in the state cabinet, sources in the tribal party said.
Soren, who has been camping in Delhi for the last four days, had held a series of meetings with Congress leaders including A K Antony, who heads the Congress sub group tasked with the responsibility to find allies for the next general elections.
The JMM and the Congress, which have 18 and 13 Members of Legislative Assembly respectively, need the support of 11 more legislators to form a government in the 81-member state assembly. RJD has five MLAs in the House.
Communist Party of India - Marxist Leninist, Marxist Coordination Party, Jharkhand Party - Ekka, Jharkhand Janadhikar Manch and Jai Bharat Samta Party have one member each, besides an Independent candidate.
The Congress is keen to have a Speaker from the party, while the JMM could be given chairmanship of the Coordination Committee for the smooth running of the alliance government there.
The Congress could get five to six ministries in the state cabinet.
The RJD is expected to get two ministerial berths while the JMM will have to be content with the chief minister's post and four ministerial slots in the state cabinet, the sources said.
Political uncertainties have dogged Jharkhand ever since it was carved out of Bihar in 2000 as the state has come under President's Rule thrice -- 2009, 2010 and 2013.
Till sometime back, there was little possibility of government formation as the Congress central leadership was wary of allying with the JMM, owing to its past experience of supporting an independent Madhu Koda-led government and the existence of criminal cases against few JMM leaders.
The necessity of seeking new partners ahead of next general elections seems to have tilted the balance in favour of forming a Congress-JMM alliance government in
Jharkhand, even though some of the senior leaders of the party were against the move initially.
Congress leaders have maintained that the party will participate in a government led by the JMM, in which the latter will have to secure the support of other parties.
The Congress leadership also asked the JMM for a clear assurance about the support of the six independent MLAs to the government.
Independents are unlikely to be made ministers.
While announcing its decision to support the JMM to form a government, the Congress said that it wanted the new dispensation in the state to work to bring about "visibly improved outcomes" in key development sectors.
The party has also sounded a word of caution about mining activities in Jharkhand, in the backdrop of mining scandals involving the Koda government, earlier asking the new dispensation to "ensure that tribals and weaker sections are not adversely impacted by mining activities, where it is permitted under existing regulations and legislations".