The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Marandi rebels dig in heels

Ranchi, March 8: In a veiled threat to the central leadership, the five rebel ministers from the Samata Party and the Janata Dal (United) who have launched the “oust-Marandi” campaign today said they “did not need” their parties. “Instead, their parties needed them.”

The rebel ministers, who returned to the capital after apprising the Samata and Dal (U) central leadership in New Delhi about the political crisis in the state, said George Fernandes, Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav gave them a patient hearing and termed their grievances “genuine”.

One of the rebel ministers, Lalchand Mahto, told The Telegraph here that the central leadership of his party has asked for two days to take up the matter with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

“We have handed a report of the Marandi government’s failure to the central leadership of the Samata and Dal (U). The report is confidential. Samata Party president George Fernandes, who is also the NDA convener, has asked for two days to take up the matter with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and the BJP high command,” Lalchand said.

Though the BJP has so far refused to give in to the rebel ministers’ demand, the sudden departure of welfare minister Arjun Munda to Delhi today set political circles rife with speculation over the fate of chief minister Babulal Marandi.

BJP sources described the visit as “routine” and said it had nothing to do with the political development in the state. But observers said there was more to the visit than meets the eye.

Lalchand, who returned to the capital along with excise minister Ramesh Singh Munda, revenue minister Madhu Singh and PHED minister Jaleshwar Mahto, reiterated the oust-Marandi stand.

“We are not going to compromise on anything short of a new chief minister for the state. We have made it clear to our leaders in New Delhi about our stand,” the four ministers said. The fifth, urban development minister Bachcha Singh, had returned to Ranchi earlier.

Unfazed by the rebels’ demand, chief minister Babulal Marandi said in the capital today that there was no threat to his chair or the government. “The crisis is like a family dispute. There are often misunderstandings among family members. But then the misunderstandings are sorted out. I, too, feel that the rebel ministers should sit down with me to sort out the misunderstandings,” he told The Telegraph before leaving for Bokaro.

Marandi hoped that the matter would be sorted out and the rebel ministers would give up their “rigid stand”. “They are with us and will always be there with the government. We will sort out the differences, if any,” he said.

Later addressing newsmen at his residence, Mahto said: “Fernandes was told hold talks with Advani today, but the deputy PM had to go to Rajasthan. The talks will be held tomorrow after Advani returns to Delhi.”

The rebel ministers met to chalk out their strategy for the next two days till they get a response from New Delhi. They said that since they are firm on their stand, they could even go to the extent of resigning, if the circumstances demanded.

However, they were hopeful that “something” might come up during the deliberations between Advani and Fernandes on the issue of change in leadership in Jharkhand. “Everything will be clear in another two days. We will not give more time to New Delhi. We have done our job and after two days we will take a decision,” Mahto said.

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