New Delhi, March 4: After finding itself covered with infamy in Jharkhand and Goa, the Manmohan Singh government and the Congress today set about undoing some of the damage by putting the tiny western state under President's rule.
At the same time, Jharkhand governor Syed Sibtey Razi announced that he would bring forward the date of the floor test to cool tempers triggered by his action of asking Shibu Soren to form the ministry, though the rival BJP alliance had submitted a list of 41 supporting MLAs.
The Goa decision was taken, though the Congress-led government of Pratapsinh Rane had won the trial of strength by one vote after an MLA of the rival BJP camp was disqualified and the acting speaker used his casting vote in its favour.
Three hours later, a meeting of the Union cabinet decided to declare President's rule before being subjected to some more embarrassment. The Supreme Court today said it was keeping a close eye on Goa. It will also hear a petition by the former chief minister, Manohar Parrikar of the BJP, against his government's dismissal by governor S.C. Jamir.
Like Razi, Jamir is a Congress leader-turned-governor.
Under vicious attack over Jharkhand, the government scrambled to cut its loss of image at least in Goa before the BJP opened another front.
The sentiment was reflected in home minister Shivraj Patil's statement. 'What has happened in the legislative assembly of Goa today is not acceptable to the government. It was not proper not to allow one member to vote and then get the confidence vote passed with a casting vote given by the (acting) speaker. This is exactly what was done by the previous government in the legislative assembly. If that is wrong, this is also wrong,' he said.
With two wrongs on its plate, the Congress decided to get rid of one, though, by virtue of central rule, it would still be in control of Goa. The decision was also a signal that, stung by the groundswell of criticism, the Congress alliance would step with caution in Bihar, where the Assembly is hung, like Jharkhand.
In Bihar, Ram Vilas Paswan is the difference between sitting in power and in the Opposition for the BJP and Laloo Prasad Yadav. There were reports that the BJP had established contact with him. But the talks had got bogged down in Paswan insisting it be a non-BJP and non-Laloo government and the BJP refusing to provide him support from outside.
That the Jharkhand confidence vote would be brought forward from the March 21 deadline Razi had set for Soren was decided even before the governor met President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
After the meeting, Razi said he would announce the new date shortly, but the BJP alliance declined to sit with him to discuss the schedule after an invitation was issued by the Raj Bhavan in Ranchi to both sides.
Razi, who rushed here on the President's summons, held lengthy meetings with the Prime Minister and Patil.
Owning responsibility for the decision to invite Soren, the governor insisted that he did not act at the behest of either Sonia Gandhi or the Singh government.
'Nobody influenced me. If anybody has influenced me, it is the Constitution and the facts of the case and the practices adopted in various court cases,' he said.
'Today I am the governor, tomorrow it may be somebody else. Their dignity must be maintained,' he said, bristling at the 'supari killer' label slapped on him by BJP president L.K. Advani.