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Jharkhand: CM Arjun Munda quits

Last updated on: September 14, 2006 15:20 IST

History turned a full circle in politically shaky Jharkhand on Thursday with beleagured Chief Minister Arjun Munda of the National Democratic Alliance resigning without seeking any trust vote following withdrawal of support by four legislators with whose backing he had formed the government 18 months ago.

With numbers heavily stacked against him, Munda followed his predecessor Shibu Soren of the United Progressive Alliance who had quit under similar circumstances after heading a short-lived government soon after the Assembly polls, which gave a fractured verdict.

Munda made the announcement of his resignation on the floor of the House and later submitted his papers to Governor Syed Sibte Razi.

"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. We may have had some differences of opinion with them (MLAs) but I will not go into details about this. I would like to request that all of us have a duty to discharge for the sake of the people of the state," Munda said in a brief address to the House, referring to the withdrawal of support by four ministers -- Enos Ekka, Harinarain Rai, Kamlesh Singh and Madhu Koda.

The development is a setback to the BJP-led NDA, whose state governments have now been reduced to six from seven and has given a boost to the UPA ahead of the Assembly elections in four states, including Uttar Pradesh.

Despite tall claims and targetting the Congress heading the coalition at the Centre, the BJP central leadership had realised that the game was lost in Jharkhand and advised Munda to quit before the trust vote to avoid embarrasment.

After the withdrawal of support by the four ministers, the NDA was left with 39 members in the House with a total strength of 82, including the speaker.

While BJP had 30 members, Janata Dal-United had 6, All Jharkhand Students Union - 2 and one nominated MLA.

UPA is banking on the support of JMM - 17, Congress - 9 and RJD - 7. But it also needs the support of two UGDP MLAs Joba Manjhi and Bandhu Tirkey, Forward Bloc MLA Aparna Sen, CPI-ML (Liberation) MLA Vinod Kumar Singh and independent Stephen Marandi.

It has also claimed the support of expelled Forward Bloc MLA Bhanu Pratap Sahi, whom the speaker has declared as as an unattached member, who is free to vote on any side.

Efforts to form an alternative government began in right earnest with Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahay saying that the UPA would announce its chief minister within a day.

Railway Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad Yadav had indicated that independent MLA Madhu Koda, who led the rebellion, was his choice for chief ministership.

"Madhu Koda has my blessings (for the chief minister's post)," Lalu said.

However, Soren left the choice of chief minister to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

"Our leader is Sonia Gandhi. Whatever decision she takes, we will accept," said the Union coal minister when asked by newsmen if independent MLA Madhu Koda would be his choice for the top post.

Jharkhand plunged into political instabliity on September 5 after four ministers resigned and withdew support to the Munda government, bringing it on the verge of collapse.

Even though the BJP asked senior leader M Venkaiah Naidu to make efforts to rescue the tottering state government, it was of no avail as Lalu stepped into the picture on Wednesday and paraded 37 MLAs while claiming the support of six more.

The die was cast for the NDA government thereafter.

Earlier in the morning, Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari announced that he was keeping his judgment pending on the disqualification petitions pertaining to the three MLAs.

Namdhari made it clear that the three would be able to cast their votes during the floor test that was to take place on Thursday. He said he had consulted the Constitution and constitutional experts on Wednesday night and needed more time to arrive at a decision.

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