The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rebel switch stuns Cong

Ranchi, March 17: The Opposition in Jharkhand, especially the Congress, was in shock today after the rebel ministers ditched them to return to the NDA fold.

Congress workers blamed the party high command for failing to cash in on the situation while other Opposition parties quietly passed the buck to the Congress for creating a no-win situation.

The Congress’ star troubleshooters, Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi, AICC general secretary in charge of the state Oscar Fernandes and Rajya Sabha member R.K. Anand, left the city in a huff. Fernandes, however, promised to return after March 21 when the Assembly will be in session again.

Through the afternoon today, Jogi, Fernandes and Anand were closeted in a Hotel Ranchi Ashok room with deputy Speaker Bagun Sumbrui, AICC secretaries G.K. Vasan and Subodh Kant Sahay, and former Bihar Congress chief Sarfraz Ahmad.

Later, Fernandes told The Telegraph that the situation was “still very fluid” though the rebel ministers, including those from the Samata Party and the Janata Dal (U), had switched loyalties back to the NDA. He said the door was “not closed yet” as the rebels were still in touch with his party.

Anand said the Congress could not support these parties in Jharkhand while it was fighting the BJP and its allies at the Centre.

“From Day One, we have been harping that all the defecting Samata and JD(U) rebels float their own regional outfits and sever all links with their parent bodies. Unless they do this, we cannot tender unqualified support,” he said.

Anand admitted that most rebels had deserted the Opposition camp. Even rebel Samata minister Ramesh Singh Munda, who had promised this afternoon to get back to the Congress in an hour, failed to call.

According to sources, the Congress high command’s obstinacy in extending qualified support to Samata and JD(U) rebels had “scared the wits out of the rebel ministers”, triggering their return flight.

The rebel ministers suspected that any ministry formed with Congress support would be shortlived, sources said. Worse still, the Congress failed to clarify whether it would support a rebel-led ministry from outside or join the government.

Soon after landing in Ranchi on March 14, Fernandes had said his party would support the Opposition nominee, Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari, if the Samata and JD(U) rebels floated regional outfits.

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