NATIONAL

NDA welcomes Soren's resignation

NEW DELHI, MARCH 11. The National Democratic Alliance has welcomed the resignation of the Jharkhand Chief Minister, Shibu Soren, but said it will have a full meeting of its MPs on Monday to consider its strategy.

Now that the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (United) are looking forward to the installation of the Arjun Munda Government, the NDA has dropped its earlier decision to petition the President again and perhaps ask the Supreme Court to consider contempt proceedings against the Jharkhand pro tem Speaker, Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu, for his failure to honour the court directive to conduct a floor test of the Soren Government in the Assembly in Ranchi today.

The BJP leader, V.K. Malhotra, who said earlier today that the NDA could consider bringing a no-confidence motion against the Lok Sabha Speaker for his statement on Thursday suggesting a Presidential Reference to the Supreme Court on matters relating to separation of powers of the judiciary and the legislature as enshrined in the Constitution, said late tonight that the matter would be discussed at the NDA meeting on Monday but perhaps it "may not be pressed."

Hectic activity

There was hectic activity throughout the day in the NDA camp with two meetings of its leaders, one in the morning and the other late in the afternoon. Mr. Malhotra said the issue of a no-confidence motion against the Speaker came up at these meetings.

He virtually said that the Speaker had no business to call such a large meeting of party leaders as he had done on Thursday and he should not have issued the statement suggesting that a Presidential Reference be made to the Supreme Court on separation of powers of the judiciary and the legislature.

When it was pointed out that it was he who had suggested to the Speaker that a meeting of party leaders be called, Mr. Malhotra said: "I had said that he should call a few leaders of major political parties and consult them [on the Constitutional issues raised by the Supreme Court's interim order related to Jharkhand]. I had not said that he should call 50 leaders."

The NDA had also decided to approach the President again to apprise him of the "fact of an illegal minority government continuing to hold office in Ranchi."

But that has now become totally unnecessary, Mr. Malhotra said, in view of the Soren resignation. In fact, the NDA demand that the Soren Government be asked to put in its papers and Mr. Munda be invited to form a government had already become a reality by the end of the day.

`Norms flouted'

Earlier, the BJP general secretary, Arun Jaitley, said: "Not only constitutional and democratic norms have been flouted, but the Supreme Court's order on a trial of strength in Ranchi have also been violated," Mr. Jaitley added, saying that Jharkhand was witnessing "the strange spectacle of a minority government and the majority in Opposition." But that was before Mr. Soren resigned.

Mr. Jaitley alleged that there was "a grand conspiracy of the United Progressive Alliance, in which the Jharkhand Governor and pro tem Speaker in Ranchi had become its instruments."

At the NDA leaders meeting this morning, a unanimous resolution was adopted as a measure of damage control as on Thursday the message that went out clear and loud was that the NDA partners were not with the BJP on the Constitutional issues arising out of the Supreme Court interim order on Jharkhand related issues and that the BJP was not supporting the view that the independence of the legislature must be protected.

The resolution said: "The NDA believes that both the legislature and the judiciary are supreme in their own fields. However, the ultimate supremacy is that of the Constitution. Both must subserve the purpose and goals enshrined in the Constitution.

The role of the Central Government, the UPA, the Governor and the pro tem Speaker of Jharkhand Assembly is extremely disturbing."