The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rebels mellow but Sahi sulks
- Ministers get ready to take charge

Ranchi, Oct 14: A threat to call the ministers’ bluff appeared to have paid off on Saturday, when a much mellowed deputy chief minister Stephen Marandi announced that he would be taking over charge on Monday while Anosh Ekka appeared to have dropped his demand for a third deputy chief minister in the state, even as Chandraprakash Choudhary went to the secretariat and took over charge of the departments of drinking water and sanitation and science and technology.

“I am optimistic about the chief minister trusting me with the energy portfolio,” said a subdued Marandi while explaining his earlier threat that he would withdraw support to the government if the energy portfolio is denied to him.

Marandi had also questioned the rationale behind having two deputy chief ministers and alleged that the chief minister had taken him for a ride.

Another rebel without a cause, Ekka, speaking from his constituency, declared that he is with his people and can take charge of his departments only when they decide to release him. But Choudhary, who is the only minister to have been stripped of his earlier charge and was widely expected to insist on his old portfolios, took political circles by surprise when he dutifully turned up at the secretariat, met officials and was briefed on the functioning of the departments.

But while the ministers appeared to be falling in and dropping their defiance, sulking Forward Bloc MLA Bhanu Pratap Sahi, denied a ministerial berth because of several pending criminal cases, threw a tantrum and returned the two bodyguards he had received as a legislator.

The MLA, against whom as many as three warrants of arrest are pending, believes there is a threat to his life. He wrote to chief minister Madhu Koda that although he had requested for additional security, the government had paid no heed to him and hence he was lodging a protest by returning the two bodyguards. The request for additional security had been made to the previous NDA government and was renewed when Koda took over as chief minister, he maintained.

Sahi, who till a few days ago was moving with Koda like a shadow, also cautioned the chief minister that the state government would be responsible for the consequences if he is attacked. He, however, did not identify forces holding out a threat to his life in the letter. When contacted, he was evasive and merely said that he has many political rivals in his constituency besides the Maoists. Ironically, he has also been accused of being a Maoist.

Political observers interpret the letter as an attempt by Sahi to distance himself from the UPA after he failed to get a berth in the ministry. But with both Marandi and Choudhary lending their weight to the government, its dependence on Sahi has reduced greatly and even if Sahi chooses to withdraw support, it is unlikely to have any effect on the life of the government, exclaimed a UPA minister.

Forward Bloc, meanwhile, reiterated its resolve to remain outside the government. It is likely to take a decision on expelling Sahi or to retain him in the party on Sunday.

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