Ranchi, Oct. 27: Stephen Marandi drove into the deserted Project Building at 8.30 pm on Friday evening and formally sat on the finance minister’s chair to signal the end of his defiance.
The deputy chief minister had been refusing to take charge or even attend cabinet meetings unless he is given the energy portfolio, held by chief minister Madhu Koda. He had even threatened to resign and, if necessary, rock the government if his plea was not heeded.
But today a mellow Marandi claimed that he had received a “firm assurance” that the energy portfolio would be given to him within a month, thus paving the way for him to join the government formally. There was nobody to receive the deputy chief minister barring a budget officer and Marandi himself spent exactly 15 minutes in the finance minister’s chamber before driving back home.
The anti-climax took place within six hours of chief minister, Madhu Koda, and steering committee chairman, Shibu Soren, returning from New Delhi in the afternoon. They had been summoned there by Congress leaders, who were unhappy and getting increasingly alarmed at the drift in the state. An ultimatum was proposed to be given to Marandi to join immediately or get sacked.
Stephen Marandi drove to the chief minister’s house first and, after a brief meeting, drove to the secretariat “to take charge”.
Asked why he took over charge so late in the evening, when the secretariat had virtually closed down, Marandi’s lame explanation was that he did not want to delay it once the issue had been sorted out.
Asked why the energy portfolio could not be given to him immediately, since the chief minister held it along with 18 other departments, Marandi said that the question should be put to the chief minister.
Indeed, Marandi took the opportunity to dwell on his priorities for the energy sector, although he does not have the portfolio as yet. He wanted a technocrat to take over as chairman of the Jharkhand State Electricity Board, he asserted.