Independent set to hold Ranchi reins

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By OUR BUREAU in Ranchi
  • Published 14.09.06

Ranchi, Sept. 14: An Independent MLA was set to become chief minister for the third time in the country as Madhu Koda staked claim to form the government in Jharkhand after the BJP-led Arjun Munda regime resigned earlier in the day.

Koda, 35, a political lightweight, submitted a list of 41 MLAs to governor Syed Sibte Razi, claiming their support.

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader and railway minister Lalu Prasad and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader and coal minister Shibu Soren, big players in the change of guard in the state, accompanied Koda with a dozen MLAs.

Koda told the governor he had letters of support from 41 legislators while two others, one from the Forward Bloc and the other from the CPI-ML (Liberation), he claimed, had assured him of their backing.

Earlier in the day, an unusually sedate Assembly listened to a farewell speech by Munda, who said: “The BJP-led coalition had got the mandate as the largest coalition during the last Assembly elections, but some of our colleagues have switched sides.”

Koda is one of those colleagues, the others being Anosh Ekka, Harinarayan Rai and Kamlesh Singh — all four ministers in the Munda cabinet whose departure reduced his government to a minority.

Contrary to widespread fears of trouble, the MLAs were on their best behaviour on the day of the trial of strength. Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari, who resigned later, said though there were sufficient grounds to disqualify two of the three members of the House, he did not do so “in public interest”.

Disqualification would still have left Munda in a minority but the succeeding United Progressive Alliance government would have been even more fragile.

Koda, only the third Independent legislator to become chief minister after Bishwanath Das of Orissa in 1971 and F.A. Khonglam of Meghalaya in 2002, is expected to be sworn in on Sunday after the governor completes the process of verifying the support claimed by him.

The UPA had to overcome stout resistance from Soren, who said that as the largest constituent of the alliance in the state, the JMM, with 17 MLAs, had a stronger claim to the chief minister’s chair. He relented only after being bluntly told that there was no consensus on his name.

Finally, it was Soren who proposed Koda’s name at the UPA meeting. Lalu Prasad seconded it.