March 1: The political ice in Jharkhand showed no signs of thawing with the BJP high command in Delhi today throwing its weight behind chief minister Babulal Marandi and ruling out any change of guard at Ranchi. The party asserted that Marandi was not facing any crisis and enjoyed majority support.
On the other hand, the Jharkhand leadership of the Janata Dal (United), for the first time, put an official seal on the dissidence. The party’s state president, Gautam Sagar Rana, today announced that the party was with the five ministers in their demand for Marandi’s ouster.
The move is significant as the rebel ministers were on their own all this time but with Rana’s support, the rebellion becomes “official”. The Dal (U) was silent on the rebellion all this time. “Marandi has been forcing only the BJP’s agenda over the past two years. He ignored all other constituents of the NDA, who were partners in the government,” Rana said.
Though the BJP central leadership played down the crisis arising from the ultimatum served by the Samata Party and Dal (U) ministers to remove the chief minister, senior leaders today let off Marandi with a warning to pull up his socks and improve the image of the party and the government.
Marandi was summoned to Delhi today by the high command to resolve the crisis. Soon after reaching the national capital, he had a meeting with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu, party’s Jharkhand in-charge Kailashpati Mishra, senior leaders Pramod Mahajan and Rajnath Singh at Venkaiah Naidu’s residence in the morning. Union ministers from Jharkhand, Yaswant Sinha and Karia Munda and all the MPs from the state attended the meeting, which lasted for an hour.
In the second round, Marandi, Advani, Naidu and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi discussed steps to tone up the party’s image and tame the rebel ministers.
Talking to The Telegraph, Rajnath Singh later said the chief minister would not be replaced. He said Advani and Naidu will talk to railway minister Nitish Kumar to rein in the four Samata rebels.
Marandi said there was no dissidence in the party. “They have some problems. I will talk with them. I spoke to Nitish Kumar yesterday and Fernandes earlier and told them to talk to the disgruntled ministers.”
“Marandi is not facing any problem. He enjoys majority support,” said Pramod Mahajan after his meeting with Marandi.
But the mood in the JD-U camp at Ranchi was belligerent. “Marandi had been taking the non-BJP ministers in the government for granted. These NDA partners of the BJP had to serve ultimatum and deadlines to Marandi for almost everything,’’ Rana said. The party will organise a massive public meeting on March 5 at the local town hall to highlight the “malfunctioning of the bureaucracy”.
The meeting will be attended by senior NDA leader Sharad Yadav.