Ranchi, July 1: Janata Dal (United) ministers and legislators today rallied around sacked land revenue minister Madhu Singh.
Some of them called on Singh and, on condition of anonymity, questioned the authenticity of the audio recording that suggested Singh had accepted an ‘advance’ of Rs 50 lakh from an industrialist for allegedly mobilising 10 legislators to propose his name for the Rajya Sabha.
Given the composition of the Jharkhand Assembly, they claimed, this was an impossible and absurd objective.
They freely sympathised with Madhu Singh, dropped yesterday from the ministry following a Tehelka-type sting operation, and criticised central leaders of the party for their “knee-jerk reaction” to the publication of what they termed a “dubious” transcript.
George Fernandes, they felt, should not have suspended Madhu Singh from the primary membership of the party only hours after the latter was asked to explain his conduct within the next three days.
Murmurs within the Dal (United) grew louder as the day progressed with some party leaders demanding an independent probe into the episode.
The composition of the Jharkhand Assembly is such, they argued, that an Independent candidate would have required the support of legislators of all political parties, both in the ruling coalition as well as in the Opposition. This, they pointed out, was a virtually impossible task and nobody in his senses would have spent so much money for chasing a utopian dream.
Figures do seem to support their contention. In a House with a current strength of 72, excluding the Speaker, the combined Opposition has 31 members and the ruling coalition a strength of 41.
The two official candidates —Yashwant Sinha fielded by the NDA and Stephen Marandi put up by the Opposition — required 50 first preference votes between themselves. A third candidate could have won only if all the remaining votes had been cast in his favour. Indeed, the third candidate would have required seven surplus votes of the BJP, seven more votes from the Dal (United), all the three votes from Independent MLAs and seven surplus votes from the combined Opposition comprising six political parties and an Independent.
One would have to be foolhardy to make an attempt to marshal all the votes from as many as eight political parties, the Dal (United) leaders said.
As an afterthought, they added that if the charges of horse-trading were true, people from every political party would have been involved; so, why blame and sacrifice only Madhu Singh.
One of the Dal (United) ministers, with tongue firmly in cheek, added that since the mysterious third candidate apparently failed to get the support of even 10 MLAs, it proved that not every MLA in Jharkhand can be purchased.
They pointed out that nobody has come forward to claim that he had paid the amount to Singh; the amount itself is yet to be traced and no nomination paper signed by a single MLA has surfaced so far.
The audio recording, they added, has not been examined and following the denial of the minister of any such deal, his voice should have been established beyond any doubt.
The political grapevine and a section of the media, however, pointed their fingers at a Delhi-based businessman Sanjeev Agrawal, the son of a Congress member of the Rajya Sabha, M.M. Agrawal. Both, it was claimed, camped here last month and met legislators from all parties in their hotel room.
However, when contacted today over phone, Sanjeev denied having made any bid for the Rajya Sabha. He also claimed that he had never heard of Madhu Singh. He said he had camped at Ranchi “on business”.