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Jharkhand: NDA MLAs meet Kalam

By Amberish Diwanji in New Delhi
Last updated on: March 03, 2005 23:30 IST
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In a clear show of strength, the National Democratic Alliance presented its 41 members of the Jharkhand legislative assembly to President A P J Abdul Kalam at 6 pm on Thursday.

Of the 41, 30 were from the Bharatiya Janata Dal, 6 from the Janata Dal-United, and five were Independents who had promised their support to the NDA.

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Led by NDA convenor George Fernandes and BJP president L K Advani, the 41 MLAs, some of whom had arrived in Delhi just over an hour ago, drove down to Rashtrapati Bhavan in a bus.

On the driveway towards the opulent Presidential palace, the 41 members disembarked from the bus and walked together, thus giving the gathered media the chance to capture on camera and broadcast to the world the fact that the NDA clearly had the necessary numbers.

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BJP leader Rajnath Singh, who has been overseeing the NDA's effort to form the government in Jharkhand, also accompanied the MLAs to the President.

Adding a touch of melodrama to what was clearly a dramatic event, BJP MLA Tala Marandi, who is currently undergoing treatment at New Delhi's Apollo Hospital, was brought to Rashtrapati Bhavan in an ambulance. He had been flown down this morning from Ranchi, where he was undergoing treatment in a private hospital.

While the remaining 40 NDA legislators had been flown to New Delhi last night (March 2), the five independent MLAs, whose support can clearly make or break this government, were whisked away by road to West Bengal.

From there, these 'famous five' -- Sudesh Mahto, Chandra Prakash Choudhury, Madhu Kora, Enos Ekka and Hari Narain Rai -- made their way to Bhubaneswar, by road and rail, where they spent the day. Finally, the five boarded an Indian Airlines flight in Bhubaneswar at 2.30 pm to arrive in Delhi at 4.30 pm.

The five were then taken to Gujarat Bhavan and presented to the media along with the NDA legislators, and from where all them were driven to Rashtrapati Bhavan.

After meeting the president, L K Advani deplored the turn of events in Ranchi that saw Governor Syed Sibtey Razi, in defiance of every constitutional norm, invite Shibu Soren, the leader of the smaller party and alliance, to form the government, and give him an unprecedented 21 days to prove his majority.

"I have heard of aircraft being hijacked, but here the governor has hijacked the entire democratic process," said Advani.

But the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha said he would not blame the governor alone. "This governor is a small time politician who was handpicked to be the governor for Jharkhand. He alone cannot be blamed for what all has happened. The larger blame lies in the Congress leadership at the Centre. They are the ones who forced the governor to do what he did," he added.

Asked what they had asked the president to do and what the President's reaction was, Advani said that the president had said that he would first hear what Razi has to say and then take a decision. Razi is scheduled to meet the President at 6 pm, March 4.

"One demand raised was that Soren's government be dismissed forthwith and BJP leader Arjun Munda be invited to form the government and prove his majority," said Advani.

But Advani said that the NDA had made one forceful plea. As per the constitutional provisions Jharkhand, the governor has the right to nominate an Anglo-Indian member to the legislative assembly.

"We have demanded that this nomination must take place only after the vote of confidence," asserted Advani.

The BJP president has reason to be fearful. At present, the Jharkhand assembly strength is 81, of which 41 members are at present in the NDA or backing it. Thus, the UPA (comprising the JMM, Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Nationalist Congress Party, Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist, and independents) can at best have the support of the remaining 40 members (assuming that all the remaining back Soren).

But should the governor nominate an Anglo-Indian to the assembly, the strength of the assembly goes up to 82 and as per tradition, a nominated member normally backs the government of the day (at present, Soren).

Should the Jharkhand assembly be split along even lines, so far an unprecedented situation in India's history, it would at least justify Governor Syed Sibtey Razi's decision to invite Soren.

No wonder Advani and the NDA insisted to the president that he must tell the governor not to nominate any member to the assembly until the a government wins a vote of confidence.

Later, speaking to the media, Enos Ekka flatly denied the claims made by Shibu Soren and the Congress that he had been kidnapped by the NDA.

"I am standing in front of you and telling you that no one has kidnapped me. I am here of my own volition and had from the very beginning backed the NDA," he said.

Hari Narayan, whose wife had allegedly complained that he had been kidnapped, too pooh-poohed such claims. "All such stories are nonsense. Just because we are with the NDA, the Congress and JMM are putting out such stories," he said.

The BJP now has just one final worry: that till the vote of confidence takes place, the five MLAs who have promised their support stay the course. They are clearly worried that the Congress and JMM would not hesitate to promise them the moon to get them to ditch the NDA.

Not surprisingly, the NDA has also asked that the vote of confidence be held in the next two days, to prevent any bid by the Congress and JMM to wean away the Independents.

Also see:
Jharkhand developments upset Sonia
Jharkhand governor a contract killer: Advani


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Amberish Diwanji in New Delhi