The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rebels on a Delhi high

New Delhi/Ranchi, March 4: The Opposition in Jharkhand today scurried to launch a united campaign to form an alternative government in the state with the Dissident Five claiming that their “first round” of talks with Samata Party and Janata Dal (United) leaders in Delhi had progressed “as per expectations”.

The rebels — Madhu Singh, Bachcha Singh, Ramesh Singh Munda, Jaleshwar Mahto (all Samata) and JD(U)’s Lalchand Mahto — said they have been given a “firm assurance” by their party leaders of a decision regarding their one-point demand to remove chief minister Babulal Marandi. “Matters could be slightly delayed due to Parliament being in session. But we have been assured that the leaders would very soon sit down and arrive at a decision regarding our demand for ousting Marandi as chief minister,” Munda told The Telegraph in Delhi after separate meetings with Samata leaders Nitish Kumar and George Fernandes. The dissidents met JD(U) president Sharad Yadav last night.

Munda added that the central leaders have asked the group to stay in Delhi for two more days to facilitate an “appropriate decision” by the high command. “We have apprised the central leadership of the political situation in the state and have proved our arguments with relevant documents. We stick to our stand that Marandi should be replaced. There is no alternative to our demand, but there can be alternatives for Marandi,” Lalchand Mahto said after holding talks with Fernandes late tonight.

The dissidents said since there’s no scope for a compromise, the possibility of a “Manipur-type” situation in Jharkhand cannot be ruled out. “The central leadership might also allow us to choose our own course of action, in which case we will explore the options of forming a government with the Opposition parties,” said Jaleshwar Mahto.

In Ranchi, the Opposition began exploring possibilities of forming an alternative government. All 36 Opposition legislators met in an hour-long hectic “strategy session” at MLA Club. “The meeting was to chalk out a course of action to be adopted by the Opposition in the House. We have decided to take on the government in a planned manner during the budget session. This is why we decided to sit together and decide our strategy. The Opposition is united on almost all the issues of public and state interest which are taken up in the House,” Leader of Opposition and JMM leader Stephen Marandi said.

But more than “session strategy” transpired at the meeting. “The rebel ministers have opened a front in Delhi. We are just supplying them the fuel. By holding this meeting, we want to assure them that the entire Opposition is with them on the issue of ousting Marandi,” a senior Opposition legislator said.

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