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Crony puts Koda on the mat

Ranchi, Aug. 20: A “close friend” of the chief minister today brought the Assembly to a standstill.

The House was adjourned four times with the Opposition baying for chief minister Madhu Koda to give a statement on the charges against Vinod Sinha and Koda’s relationship with him.

But Koda sat silently in the House, for some time even leaving the House to placate HRD minister Bandhu Tirkey, who was again absent in the House today. Koda drove down to Tirkey’s house to plead with him and claimed to have persuaded the minister to attend the House tomorrow.

As the House witnessed chaotic scenes, ministers sat impassively and refused to react. Feeble attempts to defend Koda by Congress leader Pradeep Balmuchu and RJD leader Girinath Singh, were drowned in the din.

As for the ruckus over Sinha, Koda refused to say anything. “The issue has been raised in the House and that is where it will be settled,” he declared. Opposition leader Arjun Munda also declared his intention to stall the House till Koda clarified his stand.

Sinha, claimed Munda citing newspaper reports, had amassed property worth Rs 200 crore by influencing state government’s decision on mining leases. Sinha, a petty trader in Chaibasa till Koda became first a minister and then the chief minister, now allegedly owns several industries and is believed to have invested also in industry and business abroad.

Government sources confirm that in the grant of mining leases, the normal process has been reversed. While earlier the applications would first be scrutinised by the district mining officer, certified by him and others before moving up to the department, they now move down from the chief minister’s residence.

Sinha, a high-flier now with a fancy for expensive cars, had told The Telegraph a few months ago that it was unfair to target him just because he happened to be an old friend of Koda. He had also boasted at the time that he paid Rs 70 lakh as income-tax.

Sinha maintaines a low public profile but is well-known in political circles as the chief minister’s “corporate adviser”. In his mid-thirties, he does not hold any official position in the government. But his influence in government decisions and in the departments is acknowledged by both bureaucrats and politicians.

Unconfirmed reports circulating among Opposition leaders claim he has acquired citizenship of Thailand and that he has invested heavily in Malaysia during the past few years.

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