The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Eye on Cong, Koda on edge
- CM ready to call Opp. bluff

Ranchi, Dec. 14: The Madhu Koda government today found itself poised on a razor’s edge amid intense speculation of a possible realignment of forces.

Hectic political parleys continued at both New Delhi and Ranchi to determine whether MLAs belonging to the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (which has 17 members in the Assembly) are really serious about joining hands with the 36 NDA members.

Reports from Delhi indicated that the Congress high command was in touch with JMM and other supporting parties. A party leader confided that according to their information, only nine JMM legislators had so far agreed to break ranks.

But the number is not enough. They would require to lure away at least 12 of the 17 JMM legislators to stake claim to form an alternative government.

Political circles here were also agog with speculation following the meeting in Delhi of a senior state minister with BJP leaders like Arun Jaitley.

While the minister himself returned to the state today and denied any plan to destabilise the UPA government, both Koda and Congress leaders apparently believe he is trying to forge an alliance with the NDA.

Congress leaders categorically declared that they would rather have a spell of President’s rule than allow NDA to return to power. The party, they hinted, would not hesitate to withdraw support and reduce the Koda government to a minority if they are convinced that the NDA is getting closer to stage the coup.

They could also ask Koda to step down and recommend dissolution of the House.

The only catch in this game plan is that the Congress needs to take the decision within the next 72 hours, that is before the Assembly begins its short, winter session.

Once the session starts, the situation might spin out of control.

If a significant majority of the MLAs march down to Raj Bhavan, declaring their lack of confidence in the Koda government and pledging support to an alternative coalition, the governor might find himself with no option but to invite the new leader to form the government.

A confident-looking chief minister, however, brushed aside all speculation and declared that he was ready to face the Assembly. He accused the Opposition of spreading a canard and promoting uncertainty in order to drive away investors. “But I am confident I will be able to call their bluff,” Koda told The Telegraph.

Koda’s optimism apparently stems from his belief that no MLA wants an election and that all the three UPA constituents — the Congress, RJD and the JMM — are anxious to ensure that the government lasts. He is also convinced that the JMM and Shibu Soren would not take the risk of deserting the UPA and join hands with BJP.

Acknowledging that attempts are being made to topple his government, Koda said the minister spearheading the move did not have the required support of JMM legislators.

The UPA steering committee, he said, would be formed by January. It had been delayed because of the conviction of Soren, he admitted, and asked UPA constituents to voice their criticism to him or wait for the steering committee to be formed.

Raising the issue on the “chowk-chowraha, he quipped, would not contain corruption.

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