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Truce offer with quick House test

New Delhi/Ranchi, March 4: Governor Syed Sibtey Razi today agreed to bring forward the date of the floor test to cool tempers triggered by his controversial action of asking Shibu Soren to form the ministry in Jharkhand, though the rival BJP alliance had submitted a list of 41 MLAs claiming to have their support.

Emerging from his meeting with President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam this morning, Razi announced his decision on a day that saw the Manmohan Singh government rush to control the damage done by the governor.

Even after the new Congress government won the confidence vote in Goa, the cabinet decided after a meeting to impose President's rule, fearing legal trouble, other than a further dent to its image. The Goa vote was won after the acting speaker used his casting vote.

The Goa decision was a signal that under pressure, the Singh government and the Congress high command had decided to move with caution, raising the prospect of President's rule, even if briefly, in Bihar.

Razi, who had given Soren time till March 21 to prove his majority, said he would announce the new date shortly.

He claimed Kalam heard his arguments for inviting Soren patiently, asserting that the decision was within the purview of the Constitution and was taken after extensive political consultations.

Amid widespread criticism, the decision to expedite the floor test in Ranchi had been taken by the government even before Razi met the President as the only way of saving face.

But the NDA does not seem to be in any mood to relent and turned down an offer from Raj Bhavan to sit for talks with the governor on the date for the confidence vote.

The Raj Bhavan in Ranchi issued a formal letter in this connection this evening to, among others, NDA leader Arjun Munda and UPA leader Shibu Soren.

BJP sources said there was no point in accepting the governor's invitation at a time when the NDA partners were already on a protest path over the governor's role.

'There is no point in talking to the governor now. We have pleaded our case before the President and hope for justice from his good offices. The governor's integrity has come under a cloud with his decision to invite Shibu Soren to form the government,' BJP state president Raghubar Das said over phone from Jaipur.

Razi, who rushed to Delhi last evening on being summoned by the President, also held lengthy meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and home minister Shivraj Patil. Owning responsibility for the decision following the discussions, the governor insisted that he did not act at the behest of either Sonia Gandhi or the Singh government. 'Nobody influenced me. If anybody has influenced me, it is the Constitution and the facts of the case and the practices adopted in various court cases,' he said.

Among the facts he claimed to have considered were the fractured poll verdict and the letter of support for Soren given to him by the Jharkhand Party which has a lone member in Enos Ekka. He is also one of the 41 MLAs the BJP alliance paraded before the President yesterday.

The Congress and its partners continue to claim he had been forcibly taken away and that they would prove majority in the Assembly even if the date is advanced.

Razi also cited the Supreme Court judgment in the S.R. Bommai case where the Assembly was cited as the place to settle claims and counter-claims about majority support.

'Today I am the governor, tomorrow it may be somebody else. Their dignity must be maintained,' he said, bristling at the 'supari killer' label slapped on him by BJP president L.K. Advani.

nPages 6 & 17

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