The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buta plays by book, Razi returns to row

March 5: Wiser after the Jharkhand and Goa furore, the Patna Raj Bhavan has decided to take no chances. But the occupant of the Ranchi Raj Bhavan continues to be at the centre of a storm.

Bihar governor Buta Singh has been quoted as saying that any claim to power would be considered only if accompanied by 122 (the majority mark) affidavits of support.

The governor's condition, set on a day Laloo Prasad Yadav's RJD staked claim to form the government and the NDA opposed it, puts the state on course for President's rule.

The BJP has mounted an eleventh-hour bid to rope in Ram Vilas Paswan, without whose 28 MLAs no alliance can survive a floor test, but it had not succeeded till Saturday evening. If the deadlock persists, central rule in Bihar is imminent.

In Ranchi, governor Syed Sibtey Razi returned to a show of protest by tomato-wielding NDA supporters and a round of applause from the UPA camp.

The governor, who had promised to advance the vote of confidence after being summoned by the President, has convened the Assembly on March 10. Chief minister Shibu Soren later said Razi preferred the vote by March 15.

Soon after, the governor found himself being sucked into a fresh controversy with the NDA accusing him of allowing a six-day gap between the opening and the vote to facilitate 'horse-trading' by the UPA.

The BJP-led alliance had paraded 41 MLAs ' the half-way number ' before the President but some Independents are said to be still keeping their options open. ( )

In Bihar, caretaker chief minister Rabri Devi fired the first shot by staking claim on the ground that she leads the single-largest party (75 MLAs) in the fractured, 243-member Assembly.

The NDA also made a trip to Raj Bhavan, reasserting that its 92 legislators, along with 10 Independents, were opposed to an invitation being extended to the RJD.

BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi quoted Buta Singh as saying that only a person with 122 affidavits will be invited to form the government.

The condition attributed to Buta Singh ' the Raj Bhavan has not contested the NDA claim ' suggests he has opted to keep controversy at bay against the backdrop of the turmoil in Jharkhand and Goa.

Over the last 24 hours, BJP's Arun Jaitley and Modi are learnt to have got in touch with Paswan. Paswan also spoke to Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav last night, though he subsequently denied the report.

One BJP formula was to make Paswan or his nominee chief minister, provided it was part of the government. If Paswan insisted that the BJP offer outside support, he must accept Nitish Kumar as chief minister, a BJP leader said.

The BJP is banking on reports that Paswan is 'under pressure' from his upper caste MLAs, numbering 17, to join the NDA. 'The next 24 hours are crucial,' said a BJP leader.

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