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Saturday meet on Marandi fate

Ranchi, March 12: Jharkhand’s rival camps are readying for an early Holi on Saturday when the BJP high command will hold talks to decide the fate of chief minister Babulal Marandi.

Sources close to Marandi told The Telegraph that the chief minister, along with the four rebel ministers, has been asked to meet deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and BJP president Venkaiah Naidu in New Delhi on March 15 in an effort to break the month-long standoff.

NDA convener George Fernandes, who is also president of the Samata Party, will be present at the meeting. Three of the four dissidents are from the Samata — Madhu Singh, Ramesh Singh Munda and Jaleswar Mahto. Lalchand Mahto of the Janata Dal (United) completes the quartet. Samata minister Bachcha Singh switched sides in favour of Marandi on Tuesday.

The BJP and the dissident camps were confident that the end result would go in their favour. “It will be a huge Holi for us,” said a BJP leader. “We will not wait till Tuesday. We will celebrate on Saturday itself,” countered a source close to the dissident camp.

BJP sources said the high command has ruled out any change of guard in the state at the moment, fuelling hopes in the chief minister’s camp that the crisis would now blow over.

“Following in the footsteps of urban development minister Bachcha Singh, other rebels will also come to our fold,” sources close to Marandi said. “It’s only a matter of a few days when the demand to replace Marandi will finally be withdrawn officially,” they added.

The joy in the chief minister’s camp notwithstanding, Lalchand Mahto expressed confidence that the deal would be settled in their favour and that the state would soon have a new chief minister.

Mahto said they were yet to hear from the defence minister on the Saturday date for the crucial meeting. He, however, stressed that they would not budge from their one-point demand that Marandi would have to go.

“Fernandes has called the meeting only because he was in favour of the demand. Why would he convene a meeting if he was against our demand'” Mahto said.

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