| RJD chief Lalu Prasad ‘blesses’ Madhu Koda at the breakfast meeting in New Delhi. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
Ranchi, Sept. 13: A riot-control vehicle parked outside the residence of the Speaker, a water tanker and jawans of the Jharkhand Armed Police outside the residence of chief minister Arjun Munda, and a barricade put up on the lane leading to the houses of the chief secretary and chief justice summed up the mood in the capital ahead of tomorrow’s trial of strength.
Elaborate security arrangements have been made at the airport, the hotel where UPA legislators have been put up and at the Assembly even as Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari added to the suspense by reserving his ruling on petitions seeking the disqualification of three legislators, two of them former ministers in the Munda government who switched sides.
In separate slots of two hours each, the Speaker heard counsels on both sides and reserved his ruling. Supreme Court lawyer R.K. Jain put up the defence for the two former ministers, Anosh Ekka and Kamlesh Singh, while S.B. Garodia appeared on behalf of Independent MLA Stephen Marandi.
Garodia, who till recently was arguing for immediate disqualification of Ekka on a petition preferred by Jharkhand Party president N.E. Horo, was today at pains to seek more time.
The Speaker pulled up the counsels sharply on several occasions and pointed out that they were pleading for more time rather than on merits of the case. In a pointed question to Jain, the Speaker asked if he had ever asked a judge in the court to delay hearing. “Are you defending your clients or are you here to prosecute me,” Namdhari wondered.
There was a flutter when the UPA paraded only 37 MLAs at the New Delhi residence of railway minister Lalu Prasad. Conspicuous by their absence were Joba Manjhi and Bhanu Pratap Sahi, two MLAs on whom the NDA is still pinning hope.
Later it was learnt that Manjhi took the flight with other UPA legislators and got down from the bus at the hotel in Ranchi. But Sahi, the Forward Bloc MLA who was expelled by the party earlier this month, was still missing. JMM’s Sukhram Oraon is said to be “traceless”.
The UPA appeared confident of mustering support. “Even if the Speaker disqualifies the three legislators extending support to the UPA, the coalition will still be ahead by two votes, by one if the Speaker’s vote is added,” said a UPA leader.
The Speaker of course kept both sides on tenterhooks. NDA circles voiced their apprehension that the Speaker might not go ahead with the disqualification of MLAs if the government fails to convince him it has the numbers.
Others believed that the Speaker might not give his ruling tomorrow. He might, instead, allow the debate on the confidence motion to continue till Friday afternoon before giving his ruling. This way he will also pre-empt any possible intervention by the Supreme Court, which is to resume hearing tomorrow.
The UPA has moved a no-confidence motion against Namdhari over his role in handling the cases against the trio.