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Turncoats shrink Hemant govt

Ranchi, March 19: JMM MLA from Baharagora Bidyut Baran Mahto joined the BJP in Delhi today, a part of Jharkhand’s Lok Sabha musical chairs that have embarrassingly reduced the ruling Assembly combine into a minority with 40 MLAs, giving JVM chief Babulal Marandi the scope to demand its dismissal.

A JVM delegation led by Marandi today called on Governor Syed Ahmed and urged him as the “highest custodian of constitutional machinery in the state” to immediately start steps to dismiss the eight-month-old Hemant Soren government since “it has lost majority support”.

The Baharagora MLA followed in the footsteps of JMM war-horse Hemlal Murmu, who left the Soren camp after three decades over the Rajmahal ticket, which he will now contest as a BJP nominee. Congress MLA Chandra Shekhar alias Dadai Dubey also joined TMC, got the Dhanbad ticket and is now spewing venom against the ruling combine.

Floor test or not, Hemant’s 43-MLA coalition government of the JMM-Congress-RJD is down by three wickets, two short of the magic number of 42, while the Opposition can claim to have 41 MLAs now (see box).

Ruling combine supporters Independent MLAs Bandhu Tirkey and Chamra Linda, who joined the TMC and will contest Lok Sabha from Ranchi and Lohardaga seats, have so far said in writing — albeit not on paper with TMC letterhead — they will back the Hemant-led government.

Across the political spectrum, Ajsu sees eye to eye with Marandi on dismissing the government. Congress and JMM leaders are saying nothing.

The BJP, the main gainer at JMM’s expense, however played safe.

Speaking over phone from Delhi, former chief minister Arjun Munda, in response to Marandi’s demand said it seemed the JVM was in real hurry. “The (Hemant-led) government will fall on its own. We are watching developments and are equally concerned about constitutional provisions,” said Munda, who flew back to Ranchi with Bidyut Baran in tow late in the evening.

Many in BJP feel that in poll season, nothing much is left for the state government to do. Being in the Opposition, having a weak ruling combine is like having a convenient scapegoat to intensify the anti-incumbency feeling among voters.

BJP state president Ravindra Rai, however, claimed he was the first to demand the Hemant government’s dismissal when Hemlal Murmu joined them on March 7.

“When President’s Rule was clamped in Jharkhand following the exit of the Arjun Munda government in January 2013, Congress heavyweights suddenly started talking about our alleged acts of omission and commission. We conveyed to them in plain terms they were free to form an alternative government and they would never face problems from us. We have kept our word,” said a senior BJP leader.

Marandi also demanded the Assembly membership of turncoat MLAs supporting the Soren government be scrapped under anti-defection law, the popular name for The Constitution (Fifty-second Amendment) Act, 1985.

“Such floor-crossing not only violates anti-defection law, it also clearly indicates the Hemant Soren government has lost majority support,” Marandi told The Telegraph.

Assembly Speaker Shashank Shekhar Bhokta said neither the MLAs in question nor the leaders of their respective parties in the House or even Opposition members have told him anything officially.

“Bandhu Tirkey and Chamra Linda said they would continue to back the Hemant Soren government. Chandra Shekhar Dubey and Hemlal Murmu have neither quit Assembly membership nor have they told us they have joined other parties,” Bhokta added.


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