| Babulal Marandi (left) embraces Arjun Munda after the Kharsawan legislator was elected the leader of the BJP legislature party in Ranchi on Monday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, March 17: Kharsawan BJP legislator Arjun Munda, who joined the party less than four years ago, will be sworn in as the second chief minister of Jharkhand at 10.30 am tomorrow. Some other ministers will also take oath along with Munda, ending the political drama that crippled the state for close to a month.
The way for Munda’s appointment was paved after chief minister Babulal Marandi resigned in the morning, following which his 35-year-old welfare minister was elected leader of the BJP legislature party.
Munda staked claim to form a government before Governor M. Rama Jois in the night and submitted a signed list of 40 legislators to him. “Since Joba Manjhi (UGDP) and Madhavlal Singh (Independent) are not in the city, their signatures could not be obtained. We expect to submit their letters of support to the Governor by tomorrow,” Munda said at the Raj Bhavan gate.
The strength of NDA legislators in the Babulal Marandi government was 44. Sources said Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari and his fellow JD(U) legislator Baidyanath Ram have not signed the letter of support. The majority mark in the House is 41.
Munda’s replacement prompted the rebel ministers to return to the NDA fold after, sources said, “heavy compromises” were made during the “deals” finalised by senior BJP functionary Rajnath Singh, who has been camping in Ranchi.
Seven non-BJP ministers had joined hands with the Opposition legislators in their effort to form an alternative government to be led by Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari. Following instructions from Raj Bhavan, the Marandi government was slated to seek a vote of confidence in the Assembly today, but the chief minister resigned before the trial of strength.
Rajnath Singh announced Munda’s election as legislature party leader after his name was proposed by the outgoing chief minister and supported by several other party legislators. Singh described Munda’s election as “unanimous”.
Immediately after resigning from office, Marandi said he had been feeling “suffocated” in the post for a fortnight following the stance taken by the rebel ministers. “I had told my leaders that I was ready to resign if that was necessary. At 5 in the morning, I resigned from the post of BJP legislature party leader and gave it to state president Abhaykant Prasad,” he added.
Asked why he did not muster the courage to seek a vote of confidence on the floor of the House, Marandi said: “I did not run away from the battleground. But since efforts at breaking the deadlock had been continuing, it became clear that there was no need to go to the Assembly this morning.”
Had Marandi sought a vote of confidence, his chances of victory were impossible. In that case, the Governor would have become duty-bound to pave the way for the formation of a non-BJP government in the state, since the rebels would have then proceeded with their plan to back Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari as chief minister. The BJP leaders, therefore, decided that to have an NDA government in Jharkhand, Marandi had to be made the sacrificial lamb.
Sources said the “massive compromise” by the BJP’s central leaders, who had all along ruled out replacing Marandi while claiming he enjoyed majority in the House, was the most “politically convenient” step to be taken.
“The party had to choose between an NDA government not led by Marandi and an Opposition government led by Namdhari. Considering the bad patch that the BJP had fallen on after its rout in Himachal Pradesh, they opted for Munda. The party was desperate to save its government in Jharkhand whatever be the cost,” the sources added.
Munda, who left the JMM to join the BJP, has been catapulted to the high office mainly because he is a tribal.