March 2: The chief minister has wilted, the rebels have not.
Babulal Marandi met the Dissident Five in Ranchi this evening to end the crisis precipitated by these non-BJP ministers a day before they leave for Delhi.
The rebels have demanded a change of chief minister, failing which they have threatened to first propose the name of a non-BJP leader for the post and, if the BJP rejects the proposal, approach the Opposition parties to form an alternative government.
The chief minister claimed in Jamshedpur in the morning that the stalemate would end in a few days. “There is no threat to my government. I am confident that within the next three to four days, the matter would be amicably resolved. There is no scope for mid-term elections,” he said.
But the rebels — Madhu Singh, Bachcha Singh, Jaleshwar Mahto, Ramesh Singh Munda (all Samata Party) and Lalchand Mahto of the Janata Dal (United) — said there was no change in their one-point demand to replace Marandi. The five ministers are expected to meet Samata president George Fernandes, senior leader Nitish Kumar and JD(U) president Sharad Yadav, but “without budging from the demand to replace Marandi, even if they make any such request”.
Jaleshwar Mahto said the chief minister came to Lalchand Mahto’s residence in the evening. The other four ministers were also there. Ramesh Singh Munda came late.
“The chief minister was with us for half-an-hour and shared tea and pakoras. It was more of a courtesy call. He told us to end the matter. We told him that we are going to Delhi to discuss the matter with our leaders.”
Jaleshwar Mahto said there was no change in their stand.
“Every day the chief minister says there is no threat to his government. We do not have a stethoscope to check his heartbeats. We are determined to continue with our plan of action,” added Lalchand Mahto. “We are going to Delhi. Our decision is ‘atal’ (firm),” he declared.
Since the crisis surfaced almost a fortnight ago, this was the first one-to-one meeting of the chief minister with the five dissidents. The rebels had refused all offers to meet the chief minister despite Marandi’s emissaries repeated efforts.
Sources said Marandi’s visit was an effort to make the dissidents soften their stand before the central leaders of their parties in Delhi. “It is not a coincidence that Marandi, despite not approaching the dissidents for all these days, chose to meet them a day before they leave for Delhi,” the sources added.
Marandi had gone to Delhi yesterday and met senior party leaders. BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu ruled out any change of guard in Jharkhand.
The chief minister said in Jamshedpur: “I also held talks with Nitish Kumar in Delhi. He asked the ministers to come over to Delhi and discuss the issue. They are going to Delhi tomorrow and I have assured Kumar that, if necessary, I would also visit Delhi for talks with them on the matter.”