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Arjun Munda faces acid test today
Lalu claims support of 43 MLAs
Ambarish Dutta & Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

Ranchi/New Delhi, September 13
With barely 24 hours to go before Chief Minister Arjun Munda faces the trial of strength in the House tomorrow to save the NDA government, it is virtually a “shadow” battle between the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his archrival RJD supremo Lalu Prasad on behalf of the NDA and the UPA, respectively.

After biting dust at the October-November Assembly polls last year in Bihar, Mr Lalu Prasad was reportedly desperate to dislodge the NDA government in Jharkhand to create trouble for his bete noire, Mr Nitish Kumar.

Mr Nitish Kumar had inherited an unsettled due of over more than Rs 100 crore with the Jharkhand Government which had remained pending ever since its bifurcation from Bihar since 2000.

The previous RJD government in Bihar reportedly did nothing to settle this due with Jharkhand between 2000 and 2005, but this money was vital for the present cash-strapped Nitish government.

To check Mr Lalu Prasad and Congress combined efforts to dislodge the Arjun Munda government in Jharkhand, the BJP and Nitish Kumar were working overnight to foil the designs of UPA.

Sources in the JD (U) disclosed that even though till the other day the majority of six JD (U) MLAs in Jharkhand were not happy with the style of functioning of Chief Minister of Arjun Munda, both Mr Nitish Kumar and JD (U) national president Sharad Yadav had already asked them to work in tandem with BJP to foil UPA’s attempts.

The third partner of NDA, All Jharkhand student's Union (AJSU), having two ministers in Arjun Munda government, was also being closely watched by both Mr Venkaiah Naidu of BJP and Mr Nitish Kumar.

Besides the all-out effort by the RJD supremo Lalu Prasad to dislodge the NDA government in Jharkhand, as was evident during the parade of UPA MLas at his residence in Delhi today, the Congress high command also pressed into action the Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahay to keep the UPA flock together.

The Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi was also reportedly supervising the overall operation on behalf of the UPA as entrusted by its chairperson, Sonia Gandhi.

Meanwhile, maintaining pressure on the NDA government led by Chief Minister Arjun Munda, Railway Minister and RJD supremo Laloo Prasad Yadav today claimed the support of 43 MLAs in the 82-member state Assembly and said that the UPA will provide a stable government in Jharkhand.

Mr Yadav, who paraded 37 MLAs at his residence here and claimed the support of six others saying that the UPA will provide a stable government in Jharkhand.

Jharkhand plunged into a political crisis after four ministers quit the BJP leader Arjun Munda-led government on September 5 and withdrew support to it. Evading a direct reply as to that will be the new chief minister, Mr Yadav said “Madhu Kora has all my blessings.”

Sources said that while Mr Yadav was giving his blessing to Mr Kora, other UPA partners like the JMM and the Congress were not keen on Mr Kora.

JMM supremo Shibu Soren has strong reservations on both Mr Kora and Mr Stephan Marandi who is being offered the post of Deputy Chief Minister. The Congress is said to be not very keen to get a UPA government installed in Ranchi and will like to go for fresh polls in the state but Mr Yadav has been pro-active to get Mr Munda ousted from power.

Earlier, on the absence of six MLAs who he claimed were in the UPA, the Railway Minister said that they were busy with a bereaved JMM MLA.

Mr Yadav said that the 37 MLAs, who had a breakfast meeting at his residence, left for Ranchi in a chartered aircraft ahead of tomorrow’s crucial floor test.

The Railway Minister is himself likely to go to Ranchi tomorrow.

He alleged horse-trading and said that all efforts of the NDA to cling to power will come a cropper. “The NDA balloon has already burst,” he said.

Mr Yadav also claimed that some more MLAs in the BJP and the JD (U) camp were disgruntled and could anytime switch over to the UPA.

He said the UPA was never in favour of President’s rule and was for a secular government in the state after the Arjun Munda government plunged into minority following the resignation of four ministers.

Opposition leaders from Jharkhand, in a letter to Home Minister Shivraj Patil, alleged horse-trading in the state and urged him to take necessary action. Meanwhile, the former Chief Minister and the Jharkhand Vikash Morcha (Democratic) president Babulal Marandi claimed that only mid-term poll now could provide a stable government in Jharkhand.

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