| (From left) Jamshedpur MP Sunil Mahto, Mandar MLA Bandhu Tirkey, Anosh Ekka, Governor Syed Sibtey Razi, Kamlesh Singh, Madhu Koda and Harinarayan Rai at Raj Bhavan on Tuesday evening. Picture by Prashant Mitra nSee Pages 17 & 19
Ranchi, Sept. 5: Amid frenzied protests by BJP workers at the airport this evening, the three “missing ministers” flew in from New Delhi to resign and withdraw support to the 17-month-old Arjun Munda government, reducing it to a minority.
The three “rebels” — Madhu Koda, Anosh Ekka and Harinarayan Rai, who travelled in a chartered aircraft, were joined by another minister, Kamlesh Singh, at Raj Bhavan.
Ekka claimed to have been roughed up by “anti-social elements” and Koda lodged a formal complaint with the governor against the failure of the police to prevent vandalism at the Birsa Munda Airport, where NDA supporters damaged several vehicles used to drive the rebels to Raj Bhavan.
Kamlesh, who claimed to have been “humiliated” by the police last night, also resigned. “Nobody wants to remain in the government. It is difficult to continue with Arjun Munda,” he said.
Soon after submitting their resignation, the rebels, now joined by Kamlesh, were driven to the airport for their flight back to the national capital. They are expected to formally stake claim to form the government within the next 48 hours.
Governor Syed Sibte Razi confirmed having received the resignation and letters withdrawing support. But till 8 pm he had not received any letter of support from any political party to an alternative government. “That does not mean we will not receive letters later tonight,” said an official.
Soon after the chartered plane took off for Delhi, Raj Bhavan is learnt to have received a list of 43 legislators supporting the UPA’s bid. According to unconfirmed sources, Raj Bhavan also received a verbal assurance from Ahmed Patel, political secretary to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, that the Congress would extend “outside” support to the new government.
The ministers were apparently persuaded to resign first by a wary Congress leadership, which did not want to repeat the mistakes it made while installing last year Shibu Soren in a hurry. With the four ministers switching sides, the UPA now has the support of 42 MLAs in the 81-member Assembly while the NDA has 39.
Congress sources said Sonia Gandhi was adamant that she would not meet the rebels while they remained NDA ministers. The Congress is not too comfortable propping up what many believe would be an untenable arrangement, and would prefer President’s rule, but the rebels are believed to have demanded their pound of flesh. “Why did we do all this if not to form a government,” one of them is learnt to have told the Congress leaders.
Contours of the new government are still not clear though both JMM and the RJD appear likely to join, with Congress lending support from outside.
Koda, mines and geology minister in Munda’s cabinet, however, denied reports that he had been accepted as the next chief minister. “It is for the UPA to decide,” he said.