The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ranchi on edge a day before trial
- All eyes on smaller parties in final act

Ranchi, March 14: The drama that began last month entered the final act with legislators from smaller parties continuing to keep their political pursuers on the edge a day before the trial of confidence in the Assembly.

Nationalist Congress Party legislator Kamlesh Singh, who was minister in Shibu Soren's short-lived cabinet, is believed to have sent a request to his high command that he wants to leave.

Sources close to the MLA, who was discharged from Apollo Hospital this morning, said Singh was willing to refund all funds he received from the party on account of poll expenses.

The NCP, a partner in the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre, has turned down the request. 'We have decided to reject such a plea outright. The party had paid Rs 5 lakh to Singh to meet his poll expenses. We do not want the money back,' said a senior NCP leader from Mumbai.

Party general secretary Tariq Anwar said another whip has been issued asking Singh to vote for the UPA when the Speaker's election and the confidence vote come up tomorrow.

'The earlier whip was for Monday, but as the date of vote of confidence has been extended to Tuesday, we issued a fresh three-line whip directing Kamlesh Singh to be present in the House at any cost and cast his vote in favour of the UPA,' he said.

NCP president Sharad Pawar, too, stepped in and directed Singh to be present in the Assembly tomorrow even if he had to carry breathing aids.

Singh discharged himself 'against medical advice' from the hospital around 5 pm. Apollo Hospital director Manzoor Ahmad Ansari said they were compelled to release the MLA after he refused to submit himself to medical tests, particularly angiography, to determine the cause of his recurring chest pains.

As the UPA managers kept their fingers crossed on Singh, their counterparts in the National Democratic Alliance were given a scare by Jharkhand Party minister Enos Ekka who was nowhere to be seen at the meeting called at the Silli residence of Ajsu MLA Sudesh Mahto.

Amid whispers that he may have done a volte face, Ekka surfaced along with chief minister Arjun Munda, around 10 pm. Asked what had kept them for so long, Munda said they had a meeting with Speaker-candidate Inder Singh Namdhari after which they were stopped by people at various places during the one-hour drive to Silli.

Singh's vote is crucial for the UPA as is Ekka's for the BJP-led alliance. The JMM-Congress combine claims the support of 40 MLAs, including the lone NCP legislator. The NDA flaunts the backing of 41 legislators, one of whom ' Karia Munda of the BJP ' is the pro tem (temporary) Speaker. In case of a tie during the Speaker's election, which is expected to be held in the first half tomorrow, the NDA will depend on the casting vote of the temporary Speaker.

The UPA today fielded Annapurna Devi of the RJD for the Speaker's post. She will take on Namdhari in what will be the first test for the Munda government, which came to power after a dramatic Assembly session last Friday.

The UPA's managers said they would consider moving a defection notice against Ekka if he votes for the NDA, defying the order of his party president N.E. Horo, who has pledged support to the UPA. 'We have a letter from Jharkhand Party chief N.E. Horo extending support to the UPA,' said UPA coordination committee leader Stephen Marandi.

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