The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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In power, govt of rebel 4 Koda focus on panchayat elections

Ranchi, Sept. 18: The curtains finally came down on the 18-month-old Arjun Munda regime as the four-member Madhu Koda government was sworn in today, the fifth time that a chief minister has taken oath in Jharkhand’s six-year history.

Governor Syed Sibtey Razi administered the oath of office and secrecy to Koda, the first Ho chief minister, amid the beat of drums, mander and dance by tribesmen and women mainly drawn from Kolhan region which the new chief minister belongs to.

The state’s first chief minister, Babulal Marandi, was a Santhal as was Shibu Soren, who took oath as the third chief minister last year. Arjun Munda, who has twice taken oath as chief minister, was a Munda. An Oraon, a dominant tribal group in the state, is yet to get the top job.

Three others who took oath as ministers at the glittering function at the Morabadi grounds were Kamlesh Singh, Anosh Ekka and Harinayaran Rai. All of them, along with Koda, resigned from the NDA government, forcing Munda to resign without facing a trust vote on the floor of the House on Thursday.

Immediately after taking over, Koda put the fat in the fire by declaring his priority to hold panchayat elections. Koda said that since panchayat elections have not been held in the state for over three decades, his government would accord it top priority.

The NDA government had chosen to wait for the Supreme Court to give its ruling on the controversial high court order that had struck down “one hundred per cent reservation” of the post of Mukhias for tribals in the tribal sub-plan area.

Holding the election, the government feared, would inflame passions and widen the rifts between tribals and non-tribals on the one hand and tribals and Kurmis on the other. Loath to burn its fingers, it had decided to wait for the Supreme Court to find a way out of the contentious issue.

Koda today indicated that his government would seek the approval of the apex court to go ahead with the election under the existing rules, pending a final decision by the court.

But Koda’s immediate problem remains the formation of his ministry. His failure to get a single “minister” from either the JMM or the RJD to join the cabinet indicated the intense lobbying for ministerial berths in the two parties.

While the Constitution lays down the size of the Jharkhand ministry to be 12 (15 per cent of the elected members of the Assembly), there are obviously too many claimants for the remaining eight slots, though the Congress has already made known its decision to extend outside support.

It is possible that RJD, which has seven members in the Assembly, might find it less troublesome to remain outside the government and allow the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, with 17 members in the House, to occupy all the remaining slots.

Koda, however, is in no hurry to fill them up. While he said the ministry would be expanded only after he proves his majority on the floor of the House on Wednesday, he also hastened to point out that the earlier NDA ministry too was constituted in “phases”.

The BJP was quick to predict trouble ahead for the new regime. “Why, despite countless rounds of negotiations, have Madhu Koda and his UPA patrons failed to decide on the names of other members of the new council of ministers even four days after Munda’s fall'” asked senior BJP leader Sarayu Roy. “The hiccup is going to be a lasting feature of this government,” he said.

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