The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani in the picture as crisis defies solution

New Delhi/Ranchi, March 7: The standoff over the cry for the scalp of chief minister Babulal Marandi lingered with two rounds of discussion between the five dissident ministers and their party leaders failing to throw up a solution. The issue will now be taken up with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

Four of the five ministers — Lalchand Mahto of the Janata Dal (United), Ramesh Munda, Jaleswar Mahto and Madhu Singh (all Samata Party) — will return to Ranchi, even as the central leadership of the two parties decided to meet the BJP top brass to discuss the issues raised by the rebels tomorrow. Samata dissident Bachcha Singh returned to Ranchi yesterday.

“We have done our duty of apprising the central leaders and it’s up to them now to take up the issue with the people concerned in the BJP,” said a subdued Munda, Jharkhand’s minister for excise and prohibition and state president of the Samata Party.

The meeting, held today at South Block, was attended by Samata president George Fernandes, senior party and ministerial colleague Nitish Kumar and JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav.

“The issues discussed today were basically the same as yesterday’s, with the difference that the decision has now been taken to take up the issue with Advani,” Munda said.

The rebels claimed that their “Delhi mission” had been accomplished as they had briefed their leaders in detail on the state of affairs in Jharkhand, backed up by “irrefutable evidence”.

“The ball is now in the court of their party high command,” Munda added.

A top Samata source, however, added that the trio of Fernandes, Nitish and Yadav had ruled out any change of leadership.

“The leaders were of the opinion that the ministers’ grievances against Marandi’s style of functioning are very serious. This feeling would be conveyed to the chief minister either by calling him to Delhi or through the BJP channels.”

“A change of leadership at this juncture would be a decision taken under extreme duress. Also, it will not impact positively on the NDA coalition at the Centre. So it is clear that Marandi will not be replaced at this point of time. At least that is the decision of the three senior leaders,” the source added.

The ministers said they were adamant on their demand. “We haven’t dropped our demand of removing the chief minister. Depending on what turns out at the meeting tomorrow and the decision by our high command, we will chalk out our strategies which we wouldn’t like to disclose at this juncture,” Munda added.

The five rebels have repeatedly maintained that whatever be the decision of their Central leaders, they would not back-track from their demand.

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