The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Power punch at Ranchi Raj Bhavan

New Delhi, March 1: Street fight in Jharkhand, standoff in Bihar.

Capping a day of high drama in Jharkhand, BJP and UPA workers clashed outside the Ranchi Raj Bhavan after the NDA alleged that governor Syed Sibtey Razi was delaying government formation at the behest of the Congress.

Inside Raj Bhavan, Congress ally and JMM leader Shibu Soren was closeted in a meeting with Razi. Soren was accompanied by Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, the emissary sent by Sonia Gandhi to oversee the efforts at government formation.

Both the UPA and the NDA submitted lists of 41 MLAs ' the simple majority mark ' with an Independent legislator Ainosh Ekka figuring on both.

The BJP supporters besieged Raj Bhavan after Razi declared that he would personally meet each of the 12 Independent legislators before taking a decision.

Unconvinced by the show of support by 41 MLAs for the NDA, Razi held out media reports suggesting money and muscle power were being used. It was his responsibility to ascertain the truth, he said.

In Bihar, too, the deadlock persisted, though Sonia tried to bring about a rapprochement between Ram Vilas Paswan and Laloo Prasad Yadav. Paswan was adamant he would not support the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief.

If Paswan sticks to his guns, Bihar is expected to come under a brief spell of President's rule.

The Bihar standoff spilled over to Jharkhand with Laloo Prasad refusing to back the Congress-Jharkhand Mukti Morcha combine there if Sonia did not prop him up in Bihar.

In a one-to-one with Sonia this morning, Paswan made it clear he would not budge from his stand of backing a non-RJD, non-BJP regime.

He said a Congress-led government could be put in the saddle with support from his party, the Janata Dal (United) and other non-BJP parties.

Paswan said he was ready to back a Congress nominee for chief minister, preferably a Muslim. Else, President's rule could be imposed, he said.

'There is no possibility left for rapprochement between us'. It has been the political resolution of the LJP before the polls not to have any truck either with RJD or BJP. I still stand by it,' he said.

But Sharad Yadav, the Dal (U) parliamentary party chairman, said there was no way he would part ways with the National Democratic Alliance.

Laloo Prasad, who was to have flown in for talks with Sonia, did not show up today. He was reportedly busy with an RJD legislature party meeting in Patna and deputed his colleague Premchand Gupta.

Trying to convince Sonia that Laloo Prasad was not a dependable ally, Paswan showed her newspaper clippings quoting him and his wife Rabri Devi 'abusing' the Congress at election meetings.

Congress sources said chances that Sonia would dump a major ally like the RJD were remote. In a meeting tonight, UPA leaders were unanimous that secular non-NDA governments should be installed in both states.

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