| Jharkhand chief minister Shibu Soren shares a joke with deputy Stephen Marandi and a colleague during the swearing-in ceremony in Ranchi. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Ranchi, March 2: Two ministers of the newly-installed Shibu Soren government today made an abortive bid to detain a plane carrying BJP and Janata Dal (United) legislators to New Delhi.
Deputy chief minister Stephen Marandi and colleague Bandhu Tirkey arrived at Birsa Munda Airport around 7.15 pm with a posse of policemen and ordered airport officials to stop a 50-seater Deccan Aviation plane, which was preparing to take off.
They were accompanied by Ranchi senior superintendent of police Anurag Gupta and city superintendent Suman Gupta.
The plane had landed here around 5 pm with BJP leaders S.S. Ahluwalia and Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The newly-elected legislators of the NDA began assembling at the airport soon thereafter and reporters were told that the plane would take off around 7. Prasad emerged from the plane and spoke to the reporters.
A lawyer himself, he condemned the role of the governor in installing the UPA government in the state and accused UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi of ushering in the strong-arm tactics of the 'Emergency days'. The NDA legislators, he said, would be taken to meet the President.
The ministers arrived minutes after the legislators boarded the plane. Marandi, just made deputy chief minister, said they had reports that two legislators, Harinarayan Rai and Ainosh Ekka, had been kidnapped and were being forcibly taken to Delhi. An FIR has also been lodged by the relatives of the two legislators, he said.
Puzzled airport staff were forced by the police to drive a jeep up to the plane and block its way on the tarmac. While the airport staff argued their inability to detain the plane, which had been given permission to take off, the police cordoned off the area.
After half an hour, Ahluwalia, Prasad and newly elected legislator from Jamshedpur (West) Saryu Rai emerged from the plane after being told by the pilot that the police had stopped him from taking off.
A heated exchange of words followed. Marandi, however, remained seated in his car outside while Tirkey quietly walked away. Police officers informed the BJP leaders they had been ordered by the DGP to search the plane for the two kidnapped MLAs.
The agitated BJP leaders asked them if they had checked the passengers' list first. They had not.
When the passengers' list was produced, the names of the two legislators were not found. The pilot and the airport staff refused to allow policemen to search the plane.
The plane eventually took off around 9 pm. The ministers also left, saying the elusive legislators could be travelling on the Rajdhani Express. 'Never mind,' said Tirkey, 'we will take steps to stop and search the Rajdhani Express, too.'
Police officers refused to speak to the media.
One of the 'relatives' of the allegedly abducted legislator Harinarayan Rai was an 18-year-old boy who said his name was 'Chatur Kumar' and claimed that Rai was his brother's brother-in-law. He further said he had seen Rai boarding the plane.
After the high drama, however, Chatur Kumar was left at the airport as the ministers and the police sped off.
BJP sources claimed that the two MLAs had left for New Delhi earlier in the day. They hinted that the MLAs took a service flight to Delhi while Soren was being sworn in.