The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fuel in energy berth fire

Ranchi, Oct. 21: The public tug-of-war over the energy portfolio in Jharkhand appears to have less to do with politics and more with economics.

The tussle has boiled down to the UPA steering committee chairman, Shibu Soren, determined to prevent the energy portfolio falling into the lap of Stephen Marandi and the latter equally determined to have it before he starts functioning as a minister with the rank of deputy chief minister.

While portfolios have been distributed to the 10 cabinet ministers in the state, chief minister Madhu Koda has retained as many as 19 departments, including energy. The 12th minister is yet to be inducted, though.

Stephen has convened a meeting of his supporters at Jamshedpur tomorrow to chalk out his future course of action. While a section of his supporters are goading him to tender his resignation if he does not get the portfolio, an equally large section wants him to take charge on the basis of assurances held out by chief minister Madhu Koda.

Observers claim that the NDA government had initiated a large number of projects in the power sector, including putting up sub-stations, grids and transformers. Many of these installations are likely to start functioning in the next one year. Both Stephen and Soren, they say, are keen to take credit for the dramatic improvement in electricity supply that is expected after these installations become operational and remove distribution bottlenecks.

What is more, the department of energy is poised to finalise tenders worth Rs 1,500 crore in the next few months. Stephen has complained that he apprehends that Soren would foist his own nominee as the chairman of the state electricity board and finalise the tenders before ensuring that he gets the coveted portfolio. A livid Soren is learnt to have reacted sharply by pointing out that distribution of portfolios is the prerogative of the chief minister and his name is unnecessarily being dragged into the controversy.

Sources close to Soren claimed today that the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief is so upset that he has virtually dared Stephen, a follower-turned-rival, to step down from the ministry. Soren, the UPA steering committee chairman in the state, is said to be prepared for the worst, the fall of the Koda government.

is learnt to have told JMM leaders that Stephen is welcome to resign from the ministry, if he so desires, but he himself would not succumb to pressure.

According to these sources, the steering committee chairman, ironically in view of his claim that Koda is the deciding authority, has virtually ruled out the energy portfolio for Stephen.

Soren is learnt to have exclaimed why Stephen cannot prove his mettle in the departments of finance, commercial taxes and parliamentary affairs; or why he is not demanding to be allotted the departments of health or education. “Guruji is not ready to be blackmailed by any legislator for any particular portfolio,” they claimed.

Others blame Soren for precipitating a crisis merely because he is unable to forgive Stephen, who defied his fiat to contest for the Assembly and actually ended up defeating the official JMM nominee, who happened to be Soren’s own son.

But Soren insists that ministers from the JMM did not object when less significant departments were given to them and the more meaty departments went to Independent MLAs. Nor did the JMM clamour for specific departments, he is learnt to have pointed out and asked, “why then should an Independent MLA be so rigid about one particular department '”

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