The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Support wave for minister under cloud

Tamar (Ranchi), April 30: While allegations by the police against welfare minister Ramesh Singh Munda continue to rock the state, people here in the minister's constituency appear to see him as a victim rather than the villain.

The minister himself, whose son has been accused of being a Naxalite area commander, today threatened that he would take up the issue of withdrawing support from the Arjun Munda-led government with central leaders of the Janata Dal (United).

His constituents today stood by him. 'On the one hand, the police are accusing him of buying the support of Naxalites and paying them Rs 15 lakh,' scoffed Umesh Mahato at Bundu, 'and they are also accusing his son of being an area commander.'

' Come back on a week-day in the morning and you can see Prahlad, the minister's son, walking to the Idalhatu school,' added Rohit Singh Munda. The 15-year-old Prahlad, he claimed, is a regular student at the high school and the attendance register would confirm it.

Villagers said they are contemplating a 48-hour blockade of the Ranchi-Jamshedpur highway to protest the villification campaign against the minister. They planned to hit the street today itself but were stopped by the minister. While opinion on the minister's performance and politics remains divided, on the question of his links to Naxalites, the reaction here appeared both spontaneous and unanimous.

Villagers in Tamar indignantly pointed out that the minister actually secured far less votes in Naxalite-strongholds like Baruhatu, Lungtu, Baghai, Paramdih, Parsaidih and Pundigiri, than in other areas.

What's more, the Maoists, the villagers said, had killed several workers of Ramesh Singh Munda. They named Kakar Hansda, Kallu Mian, Gobra Oraon, Soma Munda, Basant Das and his two brothers. Villagers here are convinced that the police report and reports in newspapers are motivated and planted by a section of the BJP. Ramesh Singh Munda, they pointed out, has been a minister ever since Jharkhand was created. But the allegations have surfaced now when his ties with the chief minister are strained.

The state government continued to be silent on the raging controversy but the opposition demanded action against the welfare minister. On similar allegations, others have been put behind bars, said leader of the Opposition Sudhir Mahato, so why not Ramesh Singh Munda '

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