Marandi has his task cut out

RANCHI, NOV. 15. The newly- installed BJP Government and the JMM- led Opposition are bracing for a showdown within and without the Jharkhand Legislative Assembly. While the Chief Minister, Mr. Babulal Marandi, is rushing through his paces to seek a trust vote, the Opposition leaders today gave a call for an agitation to pull down what they described as an unconstitutional government.

Mr. Marandi, who was sworn-in at about 1 a.m. today, is likely to constitute his ministry tomorrow in preparation for convening the Assembly and seeking its confidence as directed by the Governor, Mr. Prabhat Kumar, within 15 days. Ministry formation is his first problem in view of the fact that he is banking not only on his allies but also small groups and independents for his survival. The effort of the BJP leaders apparently is to keep each and every one in good humour as to enable Mr. Marandi win the confidence motion.

Given the delicate situation, Mr. Marandi cannot but have a jumbo-sized ministry. The hint was clear when he said that the size of his council of ministers would be in proportion to the political expediencies of the situation. He is banking on the support of five MLAs of the Samata Party, three of the JD(U), two independents and two members of the UGDP, numbering 12. The BJP leaders themselves underscore the imperative of inducting each one of them to keep them on their side during the trust vote.

The other compulsion of the BJP is that it would necessarily have to have a majority in the council of ministers, the implication of which is that the BJP's share would have to be 13 plus. This means that Mr. Marandi's team would be not less than 25. He would be inducting almost a good 60 per cent of his legislators. He claimed the support of 45 legislators while staking claim to form the government.

The BJP thinktank was buy holding consultations with its allies and the other independents regarding ministry formation, but the surprising aspect was that Mr. Marandi's participation in these exercises was quite negligible. The BJP leaders from Bihar seemed to be the key players.

Mr. Marandi hinted that he would seek the vote of confidence much ahead of the deadline set by the Governor. Sources in the BJP hinted at the possibility of the Chief Minister convening the Assembly session as early as next Monday.

`Undemocratic act'

On the other hand the JMM and RJD leaders, who boycotted the swearing-in ceremony, were preparing to face the confidence motion and also declared their intention to launch an agitation and take the issue of ``usurping power undemocratically at midnight'' to the people for a decision. The JMM president, Mr. Shibu Soren, declared that ministers and legislators would be gheraoed when they go to the villages.

The JMM and the RJD launched their attack at a roadside rally here after paying tributes to Birsa Bhagwan, on his birth anniversary. Mr. Soren alleged that Birsa Bhagwan had been insulted by the NDA leaders and that the creation of the new State too was incomplete as the tribal ritual of ``Pahen Puja'' was not carried out.

The RJD president, Mr. Laloo Prasad Yadav, talked in the same tenor saying that people sitting in Delhi had ``kidnapped'' power with the help of para-military forces while the people were sleeping.

Mr. Yadav once again took a dig at information technology, pointing to the confusion arising from the computer errors in the counting of votes in the U.S. Presidential election. ``Of what use is it then. And more so when people do not have water to drink.''

Besides the political tug of war, Mr. Yadav might well be heading for a showdown with Mr. Marandi. At his first press conference, Mr. Marandi did not conceal his opposition to the concept of Charwaha Vidyalayas which Mr. Yadav had launched as to help the cattle grazers. ``There is no need for Charwaha Vidyalayas in this age of IT. We will want all charwahas to become computer enables.''