Soren loses by-election, BJP demands assembly polls (Third Lead)

January 8th, 2009 - 11:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyRanchi/New Delhi, Jan 8 (IANS) Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren Thursday lost an assembly by-election that he needed to win to remain in power, prompting the state’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to demand his resignation and fresh assembly polls.The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), however, was yet to take a stand on whether Soren should resign, have another candidate contest for chief ministership, fresh elections be declared in the state or the state brought under president’s rule.

Soren of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) lost the Tamar constituency by-election by 9,062 votes to Raja Peter of the Jharkhand Party - a constituent of the ruling coalition that had rebelled against the veteran politician.

When he became chief minister Aug 27, Soren was not a member of the legislative assembly and needed to be elected within six months of assuming the chief ministership.

“I accept the verdict of the people of Tamar. I will take any decision after meeting UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal) chief Lalu Prasad,” Soren, 64, said.

Soren, along with former chief minister Madhu Koda, is expected in Delhi Friday to meet Gandhi amid a demand from a large section of the Congress in Jharkhand that he should be asked to resign and president’s rule be imposed in the state, party sources said.

But this would be easier said than done for Soren’s JMM has 17 legislators, the highest, in a coalition of 42, followed by the Congress with nine and RJD seven with the rest being from smaller parties and Independents.

Asked about the Congress’ strategy, Abdul Mannan, All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary who looks after the party’s affirs in Jharkhand, said: “We cannot say anything now. We are waiting for Soren’s decision. It all depends upon him.”

A party source told IANS: “Soren is a tough customer and can demand that his wife Rupi or son Durga Soren be made chief minister. He can also claim a central ministerial berth since he is still a Lok Sabha member.”

RJD state president Gautam Sagar Rana said in Ranchi: “Soren should quit and a new UPA government should be ushered in.”

Soren, popularly called Guruji by his supporters, as of now has little option but to quit as chief minister - fourth time he would be quitting as chief minister or central minister.

He had to quit the central cabinet twice due to criminal cases against him.

Raja Peter, of the Jharkhand Party who secured 34,186 votes to defeat Soren, said: “It is victory of the people of Tamar. I have worked here for the last 10 years and my people have recognised my work.”

The BJP demanded Soren’s resignation and president’s rule in the state.

“The only option left is imposing president’s rule. Then elections should be conducted to seek people’s mandate. People of Jharkhand now do not want an experiment,” said Arjun Munda, former chief minister and BJP leader.

BJP national spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said in New Delhi: “Not only Soren but (his allies) the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal are also defeated.”

The state has seen a long period of political instability and now there should be fresh elections, he said.

The assembly term expires in March next year.

The seat fell vacant after former minister and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) legislator Ramesh Singh Munda was killed by Maoists last July.

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