Soren as chief minister? Jharkhand UPA leaders don’t seem keen

August 9th, 2008 - 4:52 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi
By Nityanand Shukla
Ranchi, Aug 9 (IANS) Jharkhand Mukti Morch (JMM) chief Shibu Soren may have set his sights on the chief minister’s post, but not too many other United Progressive Alliance (UPA) leaders in the state seem keen on it. Soren, a formal central minister, has been camping in New Delhi for a week to get the coveted post. He has reportedly met Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad.

Soren’s hopes rose after the JMM supported the UPA government at the centre on the trust vote July 22. Currently, Madhu Koda, an independent is the chief minister.

According to sources in the JMM, the prime minister and Sonia Gandhi had given their green signal to Soren for the post if other alliance partners - like the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) - and the independents agreed.

But Girinath Singh, an RJD legislator, is also camping in New Delhi, trying to dissuade Soren from lobbying for the chief minister’s post and focus instead on the 15-point development agenda that the JMM had submitted to central government before the trust vote.

According to sources in the JMM, RJD chief Lalu Prasad is not too keen to see Soren as chief minister. Lalu has had a greater say in Jharkhand politics after Koda was installed as chief minister in September 2006.

In November last year, when the Congress had served a 45-day ultimatum to Koda to perform or perish, it was Lalu Prasad who had come to his rescue. Lalu had said Koda would continue as chief minister till the assembly elections due in January 2010.

In Ranchi, independent legislators who are ministers rule the roost and they too don’t seem to want Soren elevated to the post of chief minister. The independents opposed to Soren are led by Deputy Chief Minister Stephen Marandi.

“Soren should not interfere in state politics,” Marandi told IANS.

On Saturday, two independent legislators who are also ministers held a meeting at the residence of Marandi that was attended by state Congress president Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu.

“I was here to assess the mood of the independents,” said Balmuchu.

Marandi has already said there is no need to change the leadership in the state and Soren should be contented if he is given a berth in the Manmohan Singh cabinet at the centre.

Analysts feel the RJD as well as the Congress believe Soren may hurt their political interests. Even independent legislators who are ministers are scared that their freedom may be curbed if Soren takes charge.

In the 82-member assembly, the UPA has the support of 43 legislators. These include 17 of the JMM, nine of the Congress and seven of the RJD.

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