The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Koda tests water in Delhi

Ranchi, April 12: Chief minister Madhu Koda today called on Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi, amid speculation that the state is inching towards a spell of President’s Rule.

Congress leaders felt that the lame-duck government in the state had allowed Maoist rebels a free run and a strong government was needed to rein them in. But the decision, they said, is possibly getting delayed because of the party’s preoccupation with polls in Uttar Pradesh and Goa.

Another reason why the Congress appears to have made up its mind to pull the plug is the realisation that it stands to lose the most for propping up the lame-duck government and promoting the drift in the state. Koda, however, put up a brave face and claimed, speaking over the phone from New Delhi, that all talk of his government being in trouble were just “rumours”. There is no fire, he claimed, and hence no need for fire-fighting.

He had discussed with Sonia the current political situation and offered his help to ensure the victory of UPA in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly.

Cynical Congress circles, however, gave his government a lease of one more month and maintained that while Koda’s help by way of funds was most welcome, allowing him to continue was not.

Koda, meanwhile, strongly defended the appointment of Vijender Goyel as the state’s special representative in New Delhi. But he put his foot in his mouth by claiming that it was necessary to cement ties between the state and the centre.

Still he insisted that Goel had no political affiliation or agenda and was picked up “purely on merit”. A philosophical chief minister said that every person had certain capabilities and could deliver, if given an opportunity.

Congress circles maintained Koda had sought an appointment with the Congress chief to clarify his position in the face of mounting criticism against him from within the government.

They also confirmed that several ministers from the state have been lobbying against Koda in New Delhi and complaining about his alleged proximity to RSS leaders and his administrative weakness.

Two ministers continued to camp in New Delhi, ostensibly waiting to meet Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Sonia, who was away in Gujarat. They are said to be testing the water and explore if a change of guard would be acceptable to the UPA leadership.

A final decision, however, rests on Lalu Prasad, admit Congress leaders who concede that Sonia Gandhi is likely to trust his counsel more than reports from the Union home ministry and the Raj Bhavan.

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