The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ranchi slipping out of BJP grip

Ranchi, Sept. 5: Amid frenzied protests by BJP workers at the airport this evening, the three “missing ministers” flew in from New Delhi to resign and withdraw support to the 17-month-old Arjun Munda government, reducing it to a minority.

The three “rebels” — Madhu Koda, Anosh Ekka and Harinarayan Rai, who travelled in a chartered aircraft —were joined by another minister, Kamlesh Singh, at Raj Bhavan.

Ekka claimed to have been roughed up by “anti-social elements” and Koda lodged a formal complaint with the governor against the failure of the police to prevent vandalism at Birsa Munda Airport, where NDA supporters damaged several vehicles used to drive the trio to Raj Bhavan.

Kamlesh, who claimed to have been “humiliated” by the police last night, also resigned.

His back to the wall, Munda put up a brave front and urged BJP workers to brace for a “long-haul fight” to defeat the conspiracy, which, he alleged, was hatched in a five-star hotel.

Soon after submitting their resignation, the rebels, now joined by Kamlesh, were driven to the airport for their flight back to Delhi. They are expected to formally stake claim to form the government within the next 48 hours.

Governor Syed Sibte Razi confirmed having received the resignation and letters withdrawing support. But till 8 pm he had not received any letter of support from any political party to an alternative government.

Soon after the chartered plane took off for Delhi, Raj Bhavan is learnt to have received a list of 43 legislators supporting the UPA’s bid. According to unconfirmed sources, Raj Bhavan also received a verbal assurance from Ahmed Patel, political secretary to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, that the Congress would extend “outside” support to the new government.

The ministers were apparently persuaded to resign first by a wary Congress leadership, which did not want to repeat the mistakes it made while installing Shibu Soren in a hurry last year. With the four ministers switching sides, the UPA now has the support of 43 MLAs in the 81-member Assembly while the NDA has 38.

Congress sources said Sonia Gandhi was adamant that she would not meet the rebels while they remained NDA ministers. The Congress is not too comfortable propping up what many believe would be an untenable arrangement, and would prefer President’s rule, but the rebels are believed to be firm on an alternative government.

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