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Day of reckoning for Marandi Wall of silence at Raj Bhavan

Ranchi, March 16: With a desperate chief minister Babulal Marandi pinning his last hopes of survival on a reluctant Raj Bhavan, and with the Opposition MLAs and rebel ministers determined to reach the Jharkhand Assembly, the stage is set for the trial of strength of the BJP-led government on the floor of the House tomorrow morning.

Members of the Opposition grouping, who had been moved to Bundu, a getaway on the outskirts of the capital, in the afternoon, started trickling back into the city late at night because the Adivasi Moolvasi Janadhikar Manch has called a Ranchi bandh tomorrow to protest against the likely appointment of a non-tribal as chief minister.

After a late-night meeting of the remaining members of the NDA legislature party, a five-member delegation called on Governor M. Rama Jois and apprised him of the “impropriety” of Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari, the proposed candidate of the Opposition grouping, convening the Assembly session tomorrow.

Government spokesperson Ravindra Rai said: “The chief minister will not resign. The NDA legislators will again meet tomorrow morning to decide their course of action.”

Asked if there was an Assembly session tomorrow, Rai refused to comment.

Earlier, the Raj Bhavan admitted that a session of the House was slated for tomorrow. Namdhari said the Assembly secretariat had received a communication from the Governor’s principal secretary for ensuring proper security arrangements during tomorrow’s session. “This communication came through a noting on the letter submitted to the Governor by the Opposition yesterday, requesting proper security arrangements for tomorrow’s session,” Namdhari said.

Director-general of police R.R. Prasad said he received a similar letter from the Assembly secretary today, asking him to make proper security arrangements on the Assembly campus tomorrow.

Raj Bhavan sources said it was unlikely that the Governor would intervene to defer the date of tomorrow’s session. “Any such intervention would negate the communication already sent by the Governor’s office to the Assembly secretariat. Also, this could be interpreted as an intervention on behalf of the chief minister and against the Speaker. After his message of Friday, in which the Governor asked the Assembly to hold a session by March 31, any intervention would be unlikely,” they said.

After the Speaker yesterday re-convened the Assembly on March 17, the Marandi Cabinet decided that the session should instead commence on March 27. The House was adjourned sine die on March 13 after the Chair ruled that the government had lost majority.

The Assembly secretariat has already received a request from the Opposition for the tabling of a no-confidence motion against the government to be taken up tomorrow. But the government’s spokesperson argued that Jois’ message to the Assembly yesterday was “only for a vote of confidence and not for a vote of no-confidence”.

The Governor’s message, notified in newspapers by the Assembly secretariat, reads: “Whereas an important question as to whether the Council of Ministers headed by Shri Babulal Marandi still enjoys the confidence of the House or not has arisen, I hereby request the Jharkhand Assembly to consider this question with convenient despatch having due regard to the requirement of passing the budget before March 31, 2003.”

Experts said the mention of the phrase, “or not”, authorises the Assembly to seek either a confidence vote or a no-confidence vote.

“If the chief minister does not resign by tomorrow and members of the ruling side decide to boycott the session, the proceedings can still be conducted provided one-tenth of the members (eight) are present on the floor of the House. The Opposition is anyway determined to attend the session in full strength,” they added.

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