The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dethroned king holds strings to Koda throne

Ranchi, Sept. 26: Having helped bring down the “communal” government in Jharkhand, Lalu Prasad is now anxious to get his pound of flesh.

Congress, JMM and Madhu Koda’s ministers all agreed that the railway minister had gone on an overdrive, pressuring the hapless chief minister to do his bidding.

Lalu Prasad is aware that the government is going to be short-lived, said a senior Congress leader, but wants to place his own people in key positions so that he could continue to rule by proxy.

A cabinet minister also confirmed, on condition of anonymity, that the RJD chief not only pressurised the government into appointing a lawyer of his own choice, as the state government’s standing counsel at the Supreme Court, but that he is lobbying for his own nominees to take over senior positions in the bureaucracy.

The outgoing Arjun Munda government, sources said, had provided for Rs 5 lakh, in this year’s budget, to pay for witnesses in the fodder scam cases being tried in the state. The idea was to expedite the trial of cases, in two of which Lalu Prasad is an accused. NDA leaders believed this is what spurred the RJD chief to woo the Independent MLAs and topple the government.

The suspicion is now so deep-rooted that more than one cabinet minister appears to believe that Independent MLA Stephen Marandi has struck a secret deal with Lalu Prasad. “Why is it that Stephen suddenly changed his mind,” asked a minister, “when he was actually ready to join the government as a minister till as late as on Saturday'” But the very next day, Marandi let it be known that he would accept nothing but the Speaker’s chair because he has “no lust for power”.

A hapless Koda this morning appealed to the Congress to join the government and accept Marandi as the Speaker. The suggestion was turned down by the evening as a senior Congress leader wondered aloud why the party, which is running a coalition government at the Centre, should give in to a “one-man party”. “Right from day one, we had made it known that we would only keep the Speaker’s office with us,” said the anguished leader, “but why can’t Stephen accept it unless he has an understanding with other political forces.”

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