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MLAs want out, Soren holds key

Ranchi, Jan. 6: A marathon meeting of the JMM core committee remained “inconclusive” today though insiders claimed that a majority of party legislators were in favour of withdrawing support from the BJP-led coalition government as Arjun Munda recently nixed possibilities of power-sharing.

Tomorrow will decide whether the Jharkhand government will stand or fall, with JMM chief Shibu Soren expected to announce his party’s stand.

The day’s crucial meeting had begun around noon at Soren’s Morabadi residence and continued as long as 8.15pm. Barring Borio MLA Lobin Hembrom, all the other 17 JMM legislators were present and, if sources are to be believed, at least 14 favoured a pullout from the government. The three, who did not, hold ministerial berths.

The buzz of a split grew louder around 7.30pm, when Jamtara MLA Vishnu Bhaiya came out of the meeting and said he was personally in favour of withdrawal from the BJP-led government. “There are at least 14 legislators in the party who share my view,” he told reporters and added that deputy chief minister Hemant Soren would inform everyone of the JMM stand soon.

However, the twist in the party tale came an hour later when JMM’s central committee member Supriyo Bhattacharya said an executive body meeting had been convened tomorrow. “The decisions we have taken today will be discussed again. We have authorised Guruji (Shibu Soren) to take the final call. Tomorrow, the JMM will be making a big decision,” he said, carefully keeping the day’s proceedings under wraps.

Most JMM legislators too remained tight-lipped. “We have been directed by the party chief not to speak about today’s decision till tomorrow’s meeting,” said one MLA.

Insiders hinted at a rift within the JMM for at least two reasons. One, Soren senior is known to have little faith in the Congress and its secular allies unlike some of his party colleagues.

Earlier, Guruji had reprimanded son Hemant for “unnecessarily creating confusion” and compared Munda to his deceased eldest son Durga.

Two, the Congress high command in Delhi is learnt to be against “toppling an elected government”.

Senior Congress leader Rajendra Prasad Singh, who so far had said that his party was only waiting for the JMM to sever ties, did a volte face today. “Our chairperson Sonia Gandhi does not approve of toppling elected governments unnecessarily,” he said.

While Soren is likely to pronounce the future of Jharkhand tomorrow, the BJP too has called a huddle of party legislators and officer-bearers in the evening. “The meeting will be held at the chief minister’s Kanke Road residence,” said a government official.

Trying to shift focus from the issue at hand, JMM central committee member M.K. Thakur pointed out that party workers were more against Ajsu because it held the cream portfolios in the government.

“The execution of different welfare and development schemes across the state is not balanced. The Ajsu is concentrating only on areas, where it intends to field candidates in the next Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections. Other areas remain neglected,” Thakur said.

Incidentally, soon after the JMM core committee meeting began, deputy chief minister and Ajsu chief Sudesh Mahto too left for his Silli residence and summoned party heavyweights to discuss their future action plan.

He refused to elaborate on the current political crisis. “Our sole motto is to work for the development of the state. Tomorrow, we will launch the Aadarsh Gram Yojana at Ram Dayal Munda’s native place (Tamar),” he said.

The day’s political developments also baffled seasoned observers like B.P. Keshri, a former professor of Ranchi University, and V.P. Sharan, its former pro-vice chancellor.

“The real concern of ruling MLAs seems grabbing bigger berths. In such a situation, no standard theory of political science works,” said Keshri.

Sharan too said that it was very difficult to predict whether the Munda government would last. “The MLAs lack principle. Jharkhand’s name is being maligned,” he added.

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