|Chief minister Shibu Soren in Bokaro on Sunday before leaving for Ranchi. Picture by Pankaj Singh
Ranchi/Bokaro, May 23: After days of political drama, a cornered BJP today finally decided to withdraw support to the Shibu Soren government, two days ahead of a parliamentary board meeting of the party.
In a late evening development, BJP sought appointment with Governor M..H. Farook at 11.30am tomorrow to submit the letter of withdrawal. Raj Bhavan sources said former Rajya Sabha MP Ajay Maroo contacted them over telephone for an appointment. However, we told him to request in writing tomorrow, said a Raj Bhavan official.
On April 29, the Raj Bhavan was kept waiting by the BJP on the same issue.
The move comes as a setback for BJP national general secretary Arjun Munda who had wanted to complete the mission he had been entrusted with after Soren had assured that he would quit. It is, however, a victory of sorts for deputy chief mister Raghubar Das, who does not exactly see eye to eye with Munda.
BJP state spokesman Sanjay Seth confirmed the development, and according to party sources, the decision was taken by Rajnath Singh following discussions with party chief Nitin Gadkari, who is holidaying abroad. Singh is said to have spoken to BJP Jharkhand in-charge Karuna Shukla and Munda before directing Das to hand over the withdrawal letter to the governor.
The BJP leaderships decision to withdraw support ahead of tomorrows deadline, however, surprised many within the party. It is again a hasty decision. The leadership should have waited till 4pm tomorrow to see if Soren handed over the reins or not, said a senior BJP leader requesting anonymity.
Earlier in the day, the JMM called a meeting of party MLAs tomorrow to take a final decision, a day ahead of a deadline set for Soren to step down.
JMM legislature party leader Hemant Soren told The Telegraph that Guruji had summoned all party MLAs to take the final decision on government formation. The chief minister, who had been camping in Bokaro since May 20, returned to the state capital late this evening.
Denying that the JMM was in talks with the Congress for government formation, Hemant said that everything would be clear tomorrow.
Soren senior said he had already taken all his MLAs into confidence for the final decision, ruling out the possibility of revolt within the party irrespective of who he tied up with.
Meanwhile, four party MLAs — Simon Marandi, Teklal Mahto, Lobin Hembrom and Nalin Soren — who were camping in Delhi, were returning tomorrow after Congress leaders refused to talk to them. Simon confirmed that they had failed to get an appointment with any Congress leader.
Seraikela MLA Champai Soren, who too was planning to move to the national capital along with a few party MLAs, said they would let Guruji know about their stand tomorrow.
According to sources, the JMM had expected Babulal Marandi to dissociate himself from the Congress at the party conclave, which he did not do, forcing a rethink in the JMM.
State Congress chief spokesman Radha Krishna Kishore also said the Congress would embark on the exercise of forming the government with JMM only after it snapped ties with BJP. We have not worked out any formula. It will be decided only after Soren comes out of the NDA, he maintained.
Speaking to The Telegraph before leaving Bokaro for Ranchi, Soren said leaders of a few political parties probably thought he was a spent force and would not be able to carry on as chief minister after May 25.
They should note that I have been offered a Union cabinet berth two days ago. But as my party MLAs want me to continue as chief minister, I am discussing the issue within the party and not getting carried away, Soren said. While leader of the Opposition Rajendra Singh met Soren at his Bokaro residence, the chief minister was aware that even a single wrong move would jeopardise his chances of remaining the number one politician in the state.
Soren made it clear that no government could be formed in the state without JMM support and hence the party wanted to be in the drivers seat.
I know what is wrong and right for the state. I am fully aware how this political crisis was created, giving the BJP a chance to raise fingers at me and who was responsible for this misdeed. But now I am thinking twice before taking any step, Soren said.
I have worked for the betterment of Jharkhand and know my position in the party and also what the other leaders are up to. I came to Bokaro to think what was the right path for the party to take, said Guruji and blamed the media for creating confusion and blowing the episode out of proportion.
While Hemant could not be contacted for his comments after BJP announced it was withdrawing support, JMM organisational secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya said the decision was not unexpected.