The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ministers sulk, Koda soldiers on

Ranchi, Oct. 13: Madhu Koda has either decided to be firm, for a change, or he has his blinkers on.

In a brief interview with The Telegraph here today, the chief minister denied having received any demand for creating a third slot of “deputy chief minister” besides Sudhir Mahto and Stephen Marandi. He would not comment on media reports that Anosh Ekka is aggrieved at being denied the slot.

But Ekka maintained the issue would be taken up at the steering committee. He apparently does not see any incongruity in having a third deputy chief minister.

No minister, Koda, however, emphasised has voiced any dissatisfaction over portfolio distribution. Koda also ruled out induction of Bhanu Pratap Sahi into the ministry “till he is cleared by the court”. The UPA steering committee, he said, would take the final decision on whether the remaining ministerial slot should be kept vacant for Sahi.

But contrary to such optimism, several ministers were reported to be sulking. Significantly, barring Harinarayan Rai and Dulal Bhuiyan, no minister, or deputy chief minister for that matter, took charge of their departments. Some of them, however, attributed the decision to today being “unlucky 13” and said they would assume office on Monday.

It is not unnatural to nurse a desire to have the best of departments, pointed out a philosophical Koda, but all desires are seldom fulfilled. He advised his ministerial colleagues to carry out “self-evaluation” before raising objections to the distribution of portfolios.

Appearing sanguine about the survival of the government, he said that honesty, responsibility and better coordination would be his guiding principles. “I can assure that I will take every partner into confidence and I will not harm anyone,” he declared.

Koda also ruled out any major bureaucratic reshuffle or appointment of a new chief secretary. Referring to the current chief secretary, M.K. Mandal, the chief minister said, “He is doing his job according to his ability.” Transfer of officials would be based on “need and performance”, said Koda, and added that emphasis would be on changing the work-culture at the grassroots level, where officers should behave as public servants and not masters.

Strengthening the block-level administration is one of his priorities, he claimed.

While Koda gave the impression of having put down his foot, several ministers openly questioned the rationale behind distribution of portfolios. While Stephen remained closeted with his supporters here, he let it be known that unless he is given the energy portfolio, he would not hesitate to step down.

Mahto, is also learnt to be dissatisfied. “Are Independent legislators more important than the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, which has 17 MLAs,” Mahto is said to have fumed. People close to him claimed Mahto had taken up the issue with steering committee chairman Shibu Soren and complained that more important portfolios have been given to Independent MLAs.

According to unconfirmed reports, Koda rushed to Mahto’s residence late last night in a bid to placate him. A mollified Mahto later told his supporters that though grave injustice had been done to him, he would nevertheless shoulder the responsibility given. But Stephen continued to fret and told supporters that he had been reduced to a laughing stock.

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