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Munda out of LS race, eye on Rajya

Ranchi, March 7: At a closed-door BJP election committee meeting today, former chief minister Arjun Munda flatly declined contesting Lok Sabha polls, making clear his interest in Assembly elections and a shot at the chief minister’s chair later in the year.

Top BJP sources said Munda, former Jamshedpur MP and now the MLA of Kharsawan, is concentrating his energies on party mobilisation for the Lok Sabha. “I made my intentions previously known to my central leadership,” Munda, who had won the Jamshedpur seat in 2009 Lok Sabha polls but resigned a year later to become chief minister of the BJP-JMM-Ajsu coalition, reportedly added.

That Munda’s chief ministerial ambition is alive and well is a clear message to his internal rival, BJP veteran Raghubar Das, MLA Jamshedpur (East), who also has an eye on the coveted post.

“Mundaji said the party should utilise his services for election campaigns of the party candidates. If the party fields him in the fray, it will be hard for him to spare time for campaign,” a senior party leader and election committee member later said.

Likewise, Das also lost no time to grasp Munda’s projected large-heartedness in declining the Lok Sabha offer. Expressing unwillingness to contest, Das said other capable party candidates should be given the opportunity. However, he added that he would abide by the central leadership whip.

Of the 14 seats, BJP has seven. This afternoon, the party discussed and short-listed candidates for seven seats that are not held by the BJP. The party also made its stand on gatecrashers clear.

“We have recommended seven names from seven parliamentary seats. The list will be sent to central leadership before March 13 for approval. We discussed names of candidates within the party. Those who are sitting on the fence, willing to join or joining the party expecting party ticket will not been considered for candidature,” state party president Ravindra Rai told the media later.

The meeting did not discuss seven seats retained by the BJP. “The central leadership will take a final call on these,” Rai added.

Besides Rai, Munda and Das, those present at the meeting included party in-charge Rajendra Singh, former party president Dineshanand Goswami, Hazaribagh MP Yashwant Sinha, Ranchi MLA C.P. Singh, general secretary Anant Ojha, vice presidents Rakesh Prasad and Sunil Singh.

Yesterday, BJP workers from Chatra requested state leadership not to induct sitting Independent Chatra MP Inder Singh Namdhari in the party or to support him.

Disgruntled leaders Hemlal Murmu and Kameshwar Baitha of the JMM are also waiting for BJP’s green light. Congress heavyweight Manoj Yadav is also lobbying with central BJP leaders. Sources said Yadav wants a ticket for Koderma as “reward”. Former CMD of HEC G.K. Pillai also announced his intention to join the BJP.