Ranchi, Oct. 4: The four vacant ministerial slots are likely to be filled up by tomorrow or the day after, sources close to chief minister Madhu Koda claimed today.
Their optimism followed an “amicable settlement” worked out by RJD chief Lalu Prasad and JMM president Shibu Soren in New Delhi.
Jharkhand Congress president Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu, however, said in Dhanbad that the cabinet expansion will take place on Sunday and portfolios will be distributed the next day. A decision on the next Speaker, therefore, will be taken only after Monday, October 9, he claimed.
The chief minister’s secretariat had no clue to the names, though. The “approved list”, sources said, will be reaching Ranchi either late this evening or tomorrow morning. But suspense continued over the induction of expelled Forward Bloc legislator Bhanu Pratap Sahi. The government, which can have 12 ministers, currently has eight of them, including Koda. The wrangling between allies over ministerial slots has meant that portfolios too are yet to be distributed.
The ruling coalition, however, continues to be divided on the tricky issue of choosing a Speaker. Hectic parleys continued at both New Delhi and here to break the deadlock. But indications were that a solution is unlikely to emerge this week, with both the Congress and Independent MLA Stephen Marandi reluctant to give up their claim.
Late tonight, Koda despatched Bandhu Tirkey and Sahi to Dumka to reason with Stephen and make him settle for a Cabinet berth, instead of sticking to his demand for the Speaker’s chair.
Suspense also continues over the distribution of portfolios. The three Independent ministers in the earlier NDA government, who defected to the UPA, have let it be known they would like to get their old portfolios back so they can “complete” unfinished work. Koda himself is keen to hold the mines and geology departments he supervised under Arjun Munda.
In a significant move, the government gave the marching orders to the engineer-in-chief in the road construction department. Bandhu Tirkey, the cabinet minister tipped to get the road construction portfolio, is said to have urged the chief minister for immediate transfer of the engineer, so that he could start his innings with an engineer-in-chief of his choice.
The chief minister also dissolved all the 20-point implementation committees in the state to accommodate UPA loyalists. Political appointees of the NDA government in boards and corporations are also being shown the door to accommodate UPA legislators, who fail to become ministers.
Balmuchu said the Congress is not interested in joining the ministry, but was ready to sit on the boards and corporations and ensure there is no domination of any particular party’s ideology as “it was during NDA rule”.