The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Retreat after great escape

Jamshedpur, March 3: After the great escape from Ranchi, a retreat in Rajasthan.

A junket has been planned for the 41 NDA and Independent legislators from Jharkhand, who were produced at Rashtrapati Bhavan today.

Speaking from New Delhi, some of the BJP leaders confided that after their nerve-racking experience of the past few days, all of them needed a break; and in any case there was no question of returning to Ranchi before the trial of strength in the Assembly.

Their final destination remains undisclosed but it could well be 'friendly' Rajasthan, where a BJP government is in the saddle.

The legislators, they said, are looking forward to a trip to the pink city and the Bharatpur bird sanctuary; but they would not mind a change of plan, if it became 'too dangerous'.

The five Independent legislators, who hold the key to the NDA's ambition in Jharkhand, were in a 'fantastic' mood, said an MLA. 'They are inseparable and have become a part of our extended family.'

The legislators confided that a decision to whisk away the Independent MLAs was taken when it became clear that the governor had made up his mind to install Shibu Soren at the helm.

All five of them were quickly driven to Silli on the West Bengal border near Ranchi by 2 pm. They drove to Kharagpur from where they were to go to Calcutta and take a flight to Delhi this morning. But after the airport drama at Ranchi last night, in which two ministers tried to hold up the plane carrying NDA MLAs, the plans were quickly altered.

The Left Front government of West Bengal could seek to detain the group at the airport on one pretext or the other, the NDA managers felt. After a brief halt in Calcutta, therefore, the group hurriedly left for Bhubaneshwar.

The 'friendly' government in Orissa was alerted and arrangements were made to fly the group to Delhi this morning. The group reached Bhubaneswar early this morning by the Tirupati Express.

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