The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Booby traps in Ranchi

Ranchi, March 10: Unsheathing new weapons and sharpening old ones, political players in Jharkhand have entered what looks like a treacherous last mile to power.

The JMM-Congress alliance, hemmed in after the Supreme Court stayed the nomination of an Anglo-Indian member, struck back by targeting the controversial legislator, Enos Ekka.

Temporary Speaker Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu, who belongs to the Congress, served a disqualification notice on Ekka, who is counted among the supporters of the BJP-led alliance but whose party chief is with the JMM combine.

The BJP fears that Ekka might be disqualified before the trust vote tomorrow on the ground that he defied the whip of his Jharkhand Party.

A mysterious factor, too, crept in with an NCP minister going missing. Speculation was also rife that some Independents could abstain from voting, which will derail the calculations of all parties.

With both sides evenly poised, every vote counts and all players were resigned to a night of little sleep and long knives. (See chart)

The disqualification notice to Ekka has also brought back into focus the questions that the apex court order raised.

The BJP-led alliance insisted that the temporary Speaker's role was confined to supervising the trial of strength and he did not have disqualification powers. It also threatened to move court again if Ekka is disqualified.

But Balmuchu said: 'I am completely puzzled about what to follow ' the court guidelines or the Constitution. This is something unprecedented. The Speaker has been bound by the court order. Still, I will follow the Constitution since it is above everything.'

Ekka had refused to accept the showcause after he took oath today, following which the notice was sent to his home address in Kolebira, 130 km from here. He has time till 10 am tomorrow to give a reply.

The case of the 'missing minister', Kamlesh Singh, added to the suspense. He, like two others, skipped the Assembly and the oath-taking. Singh's family said he had gone to Vindhyachal and would be back for the vote.

More tense moments were in store for the ruling alliance. Two Forward Bloc legislators, Aparna Sengupta and Bhanu Pratap Shahi, did not turn up. Bloc leader Debabrata Biswas, however, declared that both would vote for the alliance.


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