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Speaker tests JMM nerves

Ranchi, July 16: Speaker C.P. Singh today visited the state Assembly to supervise preparations for a floor test, indicating that he is likely to conduct proceedings on Thursday when chief minister Hemant Soren will have to prove his government’s majority.

The BJP had all along indicated that Singh, its man at the helm, was unlikely to step down to facilitate the installation of a pro tem Speaker to conduct the confidence vote that the JMM-Congress-RJD combine must pass to function as a full-fledged government.

“There are 48 hours still left to decide whether to continue or not,” Singh told newspersons when asked whether or not he would quit the chair before the vote.

“Right now, I am here in the capacity of Speaker and tomorrow I am going to hold a meeting with Assembly officials to take stock of preparations for the floor test. As Speaker I never acted in a partial manner. Till I remain in this post, I will maintain the sanctity of the post,” he said.

If the JMM was rattled, it would not show it. But, sources said the senior leadership of its ally, the Congress, wasn’t all that confident about Thursday. State party chief Sukhdeo Bhagat was summoned to Delhi to find out about the emerging political scenario in the wake of BJP’s quiet offensive.

But Bhagat would not be drawn into a conversation, saying his visit was purely personal without any political agenda. Senior Congress leaders like party general secretary B.K. Hariprasad, who had skipped Hemant’s swearing in ceremony on July 13, is likely to reach Ranchi tomorrow to meet party MLAs.

Union minister Jairam Ramesh is also likely to be in the state later in the week.

On paper, Hemant has the support of 43 MLAs in the House of 82 MLAs: JMM 18, Congress 13, RJD 5 with Independents and other parties making up seven.

The Opposition comprises 39 MLAs: BJP 18, JVM 11, Ajsu 6, RJD 2, CPI-ML 1, and one nominated (Anglo-Indian) member. Since the Speaker does not cast a vote, the Opposition’s effective tally is 38 which makes it that much more comfortable for the ruling combine.

There is no word yet on the JMM’s two missing MLAs, Sita Soren and Nalin Soren. If they do not surface on Thursday, the strength of the ruling alliance will be reduced to 41.

Hemant will scrape through in that scenario, too.

But, JMM knows every MLA counts. It is keenly awaiting the arrival of its Pakur MLA, Aquil Akthar, who is in Saudi Arabia. “He is likely to return tonight or tomorrow. The numbers game may sound puzzling to you people, but we know how to solve it,” JMM Sarath MLA Shashank Sekhar Bhokta said.

Good news for Hemant is that jailed Congress MLA Sawna Lakra filed a petition today before Jharkhand High Court, seeking permission to attend Thursday’s special session that was today extended till July 27.


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