Today's Paper

Soren resigns, Munda invited to form government

HIGH DRAMA: The former Jharkhand Chief Minister and BJP leader, Arjun Munda, calling for stopping the ``murder of democracy," while protesting against the developments in the Assembly in Ranchi on Friday. - Photos: By Special Arrangement  

NEW DELHI, MARCH 11. The Jharkhand Chief Minister, Shibu Soren, tonight resigned, topping a day of high drama. Later the Governor, Syed Sibtey Razi, invited the Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Arjun Munda, to form a new government. He will be administered the oath of office tomorrow, according to a Raj Bhavan communique.

The Governor gave Mr. Munda the letter asking him to form the government when he called on him shortly after Mr. Soren quit following his failure to prove his majority on the floor of the Assembly.

Earlier, the Centre asked him to step down as his Government had failed to comply with the Supreme Court directive to obtain a vote of confidence in the Assembly. The Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government had also asked the Governor to explore the possibility of an alternative government and direct it to prove its majority in the Assembly within three-four days.

Following this, Mr. Razi summoned the Chief Minister to the Raj Bhavan and asked him to resign. Mr. Soren, however, refused to put in his papers during the hour-long meeting. He went home and only after persuasion by some Congress leaders that he announced his decision at a press conference close to midnight, the deadline set by the Supreme Court for completing the trial of strength.

Constitutional propriety

Briefing correspondents after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) in Delhi, the Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, said that as Mr. Soren had failed to prove his majority, constitutional propriety demanded that the incumbent government resign and allow the formation of another government.

"The Prime Minister and his Government is determined to see that the Constitution is followed in letter and in spirit,'' Mr. Patil said. The Centre's move came after it distanced itself from the developments in the Jharkhand Assembly during the day and later reviewed it at the CCPA meeting in the backdrop of the Supreme Court order.

Mr. Soren was sworn-in Chief Minister on March 2 and was directed by the Governor to prove his majority on March 21. The date was later advanced to March 15. The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed that the vote be obtained today.

`Manmohan very angry, unhappy'

Prior to the CCPA meeting, the Prime Minister met the Left leaders and informed them of the "constitutional deadlock'' in the State. The Left leaders were told that the Shibu Soren Government had not obtained the vote of confidence. Dr. Singh also spoke to the Rashtriya Janata Dal president, Lalu Prasad, and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief, M. Karunanidhi. According to a spokesman of the Prime Minister's Office, Dr. Singh was "very angry and unhappy'' over the course of events in Ranchi.

The Left leaders felt that that the manner in which the Jharkhand affair was managed was not proper and the Centre's moves had caused embarrassment to various institutions.

Soren should have obtained vote: Lalu

Mr. Lalu Prasad later told television networks that Mr. Soren should have obtained the vote of confidence as directed by the Supreme Court. Talking to newspersons, he said the RJD was never in favour of a confrontation between the judiciary and the legislature and had always respected the decision by courts. "In the given situation in Jharkhand, there should have been a decision today as per the direction of the Supreme Court. What has happened is very unfortunate."

Earlier, the UPA came under attack from the Opposition that the Government was directing the moves in Jharkhand, a charge emphatically denied by the Defence Minister and Lok Sabha leader, Pranab Mukherjee.

UPA legislators display copies of an English newspaper dated March 4 showing five Independent MLAs at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. The UPA has alleged that a person standing behind these MLAs had a gun in his hand pointed at one of the legislators.

UPA legislators display copies of an English newspaper dated March 4 showing five Independent MLAs at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. The UPA has alleged that a person standing behind these MLAs had a gun in his hand pointed at one of the legislators.  

The Left leaders who met the Prime Minister included the Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary, Harkishan Singh Surjeet, its Polit Bureau member, Prakash Karat, and the Revolutionary Socialist Party Central Committee member, Abani Roy. The Prime Minister also spoke to the All-India Forward Bloc general secretary, Debabrata Biswas, who is now in Ranchi, and the CPI national secretary, D. Raja.

Mr. Biswas told The Hindu on telephone from Ranchi that he briefed the Prime Minister of the latest political situation in Jharkhand.

The AIFB, which has two MLAs, is of the view that whatever had happened in the State was not good for democracy.

The RSP leader, Mr. Roy said the party's opinion was that if one group failed to secure the confidence of the House, the other should be called.

The articulation meant that in case the Soren Government failed to obtain the vote of confidence, the group led by Mr. Munda could be called in.