I will be chief minister, says Soren; Koda refuses to resign (Lead)

August 12th, 2008 - 5:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Ranchi/New Delhi, Aug 12 (IANS) Notwithstanding Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) supremo Shibu Soren’s claim that he was poised to take over the reins in Jharkhand “any time”, incumbent Chief Minister Madhu Koda has refused to step down to make way for Soren to take over. “I have not received any direction from the central UPA (United Progressive Alliance) leaders to resign. There is no question of my resigning. My government is safe,” Koda, an independent legislator, told reporters at the airport here Tuesday afternoon on his arrival from New Delhi.

In the morning, Soren had told reporters that he had got the support of the Congress leadership and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) to become chief minister.

There was speculation that Koda would tender his resignation. Koda, who had Monday evening made clear his unwillingness to step down, Tuesday stated that his government was safe.

In New Delhi, Congress MPs Furkan Ansari and Subodh Kant Sahay were present at a meeting in Soren’s house to discuss the Jharkhand issue.

Emerging from the meeting, Soren told reporters: “The UPA high command is of the opinion that support to the Koda government should be withdrawn if he fails to resign. The COngress has also asked him to resign. The decision to make me chief minister by replacing Koda was taken long back. Even Lalu Prasad had supported my chief ministership; I don’t know what he says now.”

RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who earlier had reservations about Soren becoming chief minister, said he had no objection to it now, according to a television channel.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Stephen Marandi, another independent legislator and who is also opposed to change in leadership, told reporters here: “The independent legislators who are ministers and supporting the government have already conveyed their view to the central UPA leaders that there is no need for change in the leadership.”

“Without consulting the independent legislators, the central leaders should not take any decision,” Marandi said.

Marandi also indicated that he would not support the UPA government in the state if Soren became chief minister.

Soren was earlier supposed to take over as coal minister in the central government - a position that he had vacated after being convicted in a 1975 massacre case. But he reportedly changed his mind as the Lok Sabha elections are due in another six-seven months, which would give him very little time as minister. In contrast, the Jharkhand government has three years left.

He was acquitted in March in the Chirudih massacre case. The case relates to the massacre of 11 people, including nine Muslims, in Chirudih village of Jamtara district on Jan 23, 1975, by a mob following a movement launched by Soren to drive away the Dikus (outsiders). Soren was accused of inciting the mob to kill the outsiders.

The JMM had served a 48-hour ultimatum to the United Progressive Alliance leaders to decide on the post of chief minister for the JMM chief. The party has called a meeting on Aug 17 to decide the future course of action. The JMM had made it clear that it would take drastic steps if Soren was not made chief minister.

In the 82-member state assembly, the UPA has the support of 43 legislators. The UPA legislators include 17 of JMM, nine of Congress and seven of the Rashtriya Janata Dal. The rest belong to smaller parties or are independent legislators.

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