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Munda takes oath, with famous five

Ranchi, March 12: Jharkhand witnessed the second swearing-in ceremony in 10 days as Arjun Munda took oath as chief minister from governor Syed Sibtey Razi, who had triggered a controversy by asking Shibu Soren to form the government on March 2.

Munda was sworn in at the Morabadi grounds along with the five legislators whose support is crucial for the National Democratic Alliance government. Present at the ceremony were BJP president L.K. Advani and NDA convener George Fernandes.

The swearing-in came a day after Soren was forced to resign by the Centre to avert a constitutional deadlock where the Assembly was adjourned without the floor test mandated by the Supreme Court.

In a curious turn of events that showed that the drama is not over yet, a notification issued by the governor that was read out prior to the swearing-in also included the name of Nationalist Congress Party MLA Kamlesh Singh, who had taken oath along with Soren in the United Progressive Alliance ministry on March 2.

Singh got himself admitted in the intensive care unit of Apollo Hospital an hour before the Assembly session yesterday. But though his name was read out today, Singh, whose party is a partner in the Congress-led alliance, did not turn up for the oath-taking.

Doctors attending on Singh at the hospital in Irba said Singh was still complaining of chest pain. 'We cannot release him till we are satisfied of his recovery. However, Singh is free to leave provided he gives a personal undertaking that would free us from all obligations,' said a doctor who did not wish to be named.

That Munda will have a tough time juggling his ministry was evident when he took aboard all the five MLAs who are either Independents or represent smaller parties. Sudesh Mahto, Chandra Prakash Choudhary (both Ajsu), Independents Madhu Koda and Harinarayan Rai and the controversial Enos Ekka of the Jharkhand Party are crucial for the NDA's survival as the BJP and JD(U) together have 36 MLAs.

Given that the size of the ministry cannot exceed 12, the chief minister will have to do a deft balancing act to ensure that rumblings in the BJP and JD(U) are minimised. Munda will have five berths to pick from when he decides to expand his ministry. The chief minister said he would expand his council after securing the confidence of the House, which he has to get by March 21.

In one of its first decisions, the government withdrew the recommendation of a CBI inquiry against Sudesh Mahto. Soren had ordered a CBI inquiry against Mahto in connection with alleged 'irregularities' in the road construction department during his tenure as the minister in the previous NDA government.

Soon after Munda was sworn in, pro tem (temporary) Speaker Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu resigned from his post. The cabinet, which met late in the evening, nominated Khunti MLA Karia Munda of the BJP as the temporary Speaker.

The cabinet resolved that nomination for the post of Speaker would be invited tomorrow. The election of the Speaker would be held in the pre-lunch session of the Assembly on Monday while the Munda government would table a confidence motion the same day in the second half.

The new cabinet also decided to strike down the UPA nomination of R.S. Mazumdar as the advocate-general and that of Alfred George de Rozario as the Anglo-Indian member.

The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, had put a bar on the nomination of the Anglo-Indian member.

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