The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Koda tiptoes on berth tightrope

Ranchi, Sept. 15: Racked by berth pangs of ministry formation, chief-minister-designate Madhu Koda readied to take oath on Monday after he was invited by the governor and asked to prove his majority on the floor of the House by September 25.

Koda was keen to take oath yesterday itself but was deterred by the complications and infighting within the ranks.

Sunday was later proposed as the date for swearing-in but today it was shifted by another 24 hours — 3 pm on Monday at Morabadi ground — ostensibly to give UPA allies sufficient time to sort out differences.

A section of the UPA is in favour of either Koda taking oath alone or get a “small” ministry to be sworn in, giving him more time to fill up the berths. However, the provision contained in Article 164 of the Constitution might force him to have all 12 cabinet ministers sworn in together.

Articles 164 and 164(1) stipulate that the size of the cabinet shall not exceed 15 per cent of the total number of members in the Assembly, but shall not be less than 12. By implication, that would rule out Koda taking oath with only two or three ministers.

With five of the 12 ministerial slots certain to be occupied by the four defecting ministers and Bhanu Pratap Sahi, who has been expelled by the Forward Bloc, the remaining seven are up for grabs by the JMM and the RJD. Since the two parties together have 24 members in the Assembly, intense lobbying has begun for the limited slots.

There is also a tussle over the office of Speaker. The Congress is keen to place its own nominee in the chair while extending outside support to the government. But leaders privately admit the shortage of the “right candidate”. While the names of Pradeep Balmuchu and Alamgir Alam, leader and deputy leader of the Congress legislature party, have emerged as possible nominees, Congress leaders also admit that eventually it will be decided by Lalu Prasad. The suspicion that the RJD chief has struck a deal with the outgoing Speaker has added to the suspense.

Raj Bhavan confirmed having received letters of support from 42 MLAs for Koda as leader of the 81-member House. While Koda submitted the letter of support from the Forward Bloc and Independent MLA Stephen Marandi also met Governor Syed Sibtey Razi and confirmed his support to the new government, the lone member of the CPI (ML), Vinod Singh, chose to remain neutral.

Striking a discordant note, Babulal Marandi said the JVM(D), of which Stephen is general secretary, will not extend support to the new government. “Our job is over. We wanted to topple the Munda regime. We are not going to support the new dispensation either from within or outside,” he said.

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