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Kalam steps in, BJP parades

New Delhi/Ranchi, March 3: The BJP-led alliance won a huge moral victory today by parading 41 MLAs before the President to establish its credentials ahead of the rival Congress combine whose representative Shibu Soren was installed by the governor as chief minister.

Earlier in the day, it scored another point when A.P.J. Abdul Kalam summoned governor Syed Sibtey Razi to Delhi for talks tomorrow.

The governor arrived in the capital today as the ruling Congress at the Centre belatedly scrambled to isolate party president Sonia Gandhi and the Manmohan Singh government from the controversy, leaving Razi in the lurch.

Once the BJP rounded together 41 MLAs, taking the trouble of bringing Tala Marandi, one of its own members recovering in a private hospital in Ranchi, over to Delhi as well as the five Independents whose support it needed to reach simple majority, the Congress appeared to have lost not only the moral game but possibly the numbers tussle too.

In Ranchi, Soren, however, bravely claimed that Harinarayan Rai and Ainosh Ekka, two of the Independents, had been forcibly taken away and would vote for his United Progressive Alliance at the show of strength. The group of five apparently travelled in secret through Bengal and Orissa to reach Delhi while the rest of the MLAs had arrived last night by a chartered plane.

The legislators might be taken to a retreat in Rajasthan to be cooped up there until the trial of strength in the Assembly, safe from the predatory hands of the rival side.

After heading a delegation that consisted of 30 BJP, six Janata Dal (U) and five Independent MLAs to the President, L.K. Advani said they had demanded dismissal of the Soren government.

The removal should be followed by inviting National Democratic Alliance leader Arjun Munda to take oath as chief minister, the BJP president said. Until the vote of confidence, the governor should not nominate the Anglo-Indian member to the Assembly.

Advani said the President told them: 'I will talk to him (governor). Then what I can do I will do.'

Tala Marandi was taken to the President's house in an ambulance.

Advani described the governor as a 'supari (contract) killer' of democracy, who had received his orders from Delhi.

The decision to summon Razi followed home minister Shivraj Patil's briefing to the President late last night. Patil is believed to have told Kalam that the Centre had no part in the governor's decision to invite Soren to form the government even after the rival alliance had provided a list of 41 in support of its claim.

Led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, NDA leaders had also met the President yesterday evening, urging him to intervene. The presidential summons is being interpreted as a clear indication of Kalam's doubts about Razi's action.

Realising the trouble he is in, Razi is believed to be considering the possibility of issuing a fresh communiqu' to Soren to advance the trust vote from March 21. 'An early trust vote is perhaps the best way out of the present situation,' said a UPA leader.

Former Lok Sabha secretary-general Subhash Kashyap said that if the President was not convinced by the governor's action, he could seek the advice of the cabinet on the step that should be initiated to undo the action.

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