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Heartburn in Cong over berth barrier

Ranchi, May 23: Congress leaders are sulking at what they see is a “raw deal” meted out to the party in the formation of the Union council of ministers.

Singhbhum member Bagun Sumbrui, who was expected to be a member of the Manmohan Singh ministry but lost out to Ranchi’s Subodh Kant Sahay, said the Congress would be forced to dance to the tune of JMM’s chief Sibu Soren, who has been rewarded with a Cabinet slot.

“The Congress won only three Lok Sabha seats in Bihar but two of them have become ministers. In Jharkhand, the Congress won six seats, but only one has found a berth. In Bihar, Laloo Prasad Yadav not only compelled the Congress to toe his line for all practical purposes, he also succeeded in getting his pound of flesh during ministry formation. In Jharkhand, Soren ensured the Congress’ defeat in Koderma and Rajmahal. Now his induction in the Cabinet has given him an upper hand in Jharkhand politics as he is the only tribal minister from the state,” he said.

Sumbrui was, however, quick to point out that he was not opposed to Soren’s entry, but would have been happy if a tribal MP from the Congress had also found place in Manmohan Singh’s team of 68. “I have been elected to the Lok Sabha for the fifth time. I have also spent four terms in the Vidhan Sabha and still continue to be the deputy speaker-cum-officiating speaker of the Jharkhand Assembly. After Jaipal Singh, I headed the Jharkhand movement. Sibu Soren came to the limelight during the 1980s. I don’t mind his induction to the union cabinet, because the JMM too has five MPs. But the Congress not only overlooked my track record, it did not care to consider the cases of Ajit Jogi (Mahasamund MP) or Giridhar Gamang (Koraput MP) either. This is really unfortunate,” he said.

The Singhbhum leader denied reports which quote him as having blamed Sahay for keeping him out, but asserted that he, along with Godda’s Furqan Ansari, was very much in the running for a berth.

“All prominent newspapers and television channels had reported that Furqan Ansari and I were going to be the members of Manmohan Singh’s council. Sahay’s name did not figure anywhere. How his name was included remains a mystery,” Sumbrui said.

Sahay denied he had any hand in picking ministers from Jharkhand. “Bagun Sumbrui is the seniormost leader of Jharkhand. I don’t think he would have made any such statement. This seems to be the handiwork of some mischievous elements,” he said over phone from Delhi.

The minister of state said he was “not interested” in getting a berth. “I never knocked the doors of anyone. I was confined to my home for the last three or four days. But Soniaji herself asked me to join the ministry. I resisted, saying elections are due in Jharkhand. But she insisted that I join the ministry and so obeyed her orders,” he said.

But not everyone is willing to buy the theory. That Sahay’s choice has not gone down well with Congress leaders was evident from the statement of a newly-elected MP. “Sahay represents a new generation of Congress leaders who are more efficient in backdoor politics. We belong to the traditional fold. As a disciplined worker, we have to accept life as it is,” said the MP, who did not wish to be named.

Ansari was more assertive. The Godda leader, who vanquished sitting MP Pradeep Yadav, said he would not “give up” so easily and would compel the high command to give him a berth by dint of his performance in the Lok Sabha.

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