The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia jitters for Soren

March 7: Fears of President's rule heavy on his mind, Jharkhand chief minister Shibu Soren left Delhi today with more worries ahead of the March 15 trust vote after Sonia Gandhi refused to meet him despite repeated requests.

Trouble also brewed on another front as his rivals stepped up the fight with a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the governor's move to swear him in as chief minister ignoring their claims of majority support.

The petition came on a day Congress MLA Pradeep Balmuchu was sworn in pro tem Speaker of the Jharkhand Assembly. Soren's cabinet had recommended Balmuchu's name.

Informed sources said Soren made several requests for a meeting with the Congress chief since he arrived here last evening. But Sonia, apparently unhappy with the controversy over his appointment, sought to distance herself from it and avoided meeting the JMM leader. 'Soren has also not met the Prime Minister or Union home minister or any senior Congress leader before he left here this afternoon,' the sources said.

Union minister and Congress MP from Ranchi Subodh Kant Sahay, who accompanied Soren to Delhi, however said it would be 'incorrect' to say that Sonia refused him time. 'We did not seek any appointment with her during our stay,' he claimed.

Sources in Ranchi said Soren talked to Sonia's political secretary Ahmed Patel on the phone and met AICC leaders Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and R.K. Anand.

Soren is believed to be concerned about the Rashtriya Janata Dal's inability to form a United Progressive Alliance government in Bihar. The RJD is part of the Soren-led UPA government in the state. Soren, the sources said, wants to be reassured that the developments in Bihar would have no bearing on the confidence vote in his state. His anxiety arises from talks in RJD circles that 'Jharkhand, too, is headed for President's rule'.

In Ranchi, the portfolios of the six ministers in Soren's team were announced late tonight, hours after he returned from Delhi.

In the Supreme Court, former chief minister Arjun Munda's counsel sought its intervention to nullify the decision to swear in Soren. The counsel argued that it was 'incumbent and mandatory' for the governor to invite Munda as he had the support of more than 41 MLAs ' two more reportedly pledged support to the National Democratic Alliance this morning ' in the 81-member House.

The NDA also urged the Prime Minister to ensure that Enos Ekka, the Independent MLA the JMM has claimed to be its member, is not disqualified before the vote. Ekka was one of the 41 MLAs the NDA paraded before the President on Thursday.

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