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Numbers battle at Raj Bhavan

Ranchi/New Delhi, March 1: The NDA today accused Jharkhand Governor Syed Sibtey Razi of deliberately delaying government formation in the state at the behest of the Congress and BJP president, L.K. Advani, sought the Prime Minister's intervention to ensure that the 'mandate is not manipulated'.

The day of dramatic developments ended with Shibu Soren driving to Raj Bhavan in the night to confabulate with the governor.

Soren had earlier met friend-turned-foe Stephen Marandi in a gesture of reconciliation and appeared to have pulled off a reunion. He was accompanied by Union ministers Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, Subodh Kant Sahay and Congress MP R.K. Anand on his trip to Raj Bhavan.

Stung by the reverses, the BJP decided to sit on an indefinite dharna at the gates of Raj Bhavan from tonight itself. BJP leader Rajnath Singh said the dharna would continue till the NDA is invited to form the government.

The situation outside Raj Bhavan remained charged with both UPA and BJP supporters converging there and shouting slogans in the prohibited area.

The governor, BJP leaders said, had initially asked them to elect a leader and return with a list of MLAs supporting the alliance. When they returned with the list, they were told that the governor would ascertain the reality 'in his own way'.

The delaying tactics, they alleged, was designed to facilitate horse-trading and to buy breathing time for the UPA, which is yet to receive the letter of support from RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav.

In Delhi, a spokesman for the BJP claimed that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Advani that he would speak to the home minister and take appropriate action.

The sharp BJP reaction came after Razi declared that he would personally meet each of the 12 Independent legislators before deciding which alliance can provide a stable government in the state. Not convinced by the show of support by 41 MLAs for the NDA, Razi held out media reports suggesting money and musclepower being used to secure the support of the MLAs. It was his responsibility to ascertain the truth, he said.

There was euphoria in the NDA camp after it produced five Independent MLAs before the governor along with letters of support from them. The MLAs who accompanied the NDA delegation to the governor included Harinarayan Rai (Independent), Ainosh Ekka (Jharkhand Party), Sudesh Mahto and Chandra Prakash Choudhary (Ajsu) and BJP rebel Madhu Koda. Their support took the NDA tally (BJP 30 and JD-U six) to 41 or just above the half-way mark in the Assembly of 81 members.

But the euphoria did not last long when in a further twist to the script, Jharkhand Party president N.E. Horo disclosed that he had actually pledged support to the UPA. Ainosh Ekka, said Horo, had no business to accompany the NDA delegation.

Ekka, he claimed, was abducted by the NDA but said in the same breath, 'We are still waiting for him to turn up and will take disciplinary measures, if necessary.'

Ekka, however, claimed that he had supported the NDA at the behest of his party president. He also claimed that he supported the NDA because he was interested in the development of the state.

Another surprise was in store for the NDA when the UPA claimed later in the night that Harinarayan Rai's name also figured on their list. Earlier, it was assumed that Rai had decided to go with the NDA.

The alarm bells went off in the NDA camp with the governor resolving to personally check with Independent MLAs and reports filtering in that the UPA had obtained a letter of support from NCP president Sharad Pawar.

BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu urged the governor to invite the NDA to form the government 'without any delay'.

'The BJP-JD(U) combine has emerged as the single largest alliance in the state. As per convention, the governor should invite this alliance to form the government,' he said.

Since the BJP with 30 MLAs has emerged as the largest party, the governor, he said, should have no difficulty in inviting the NDA.

Independent MLA Bandhu Tirkey said he has decided to extend his support to the JMM-Congress alliance 'to ensure a better deal for tribals and other original settlers of the state'.

'The NDA government had failed to even define the term domicile throughout its four-year term. Under no circumstances can I lend my support to the NDA,' Tirkey, who shot to fame during the domicile agitation, said.

 

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