Jharkhand: UPA braces for floor test on Sep 20

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Ranchi, Sept 19: The newly installed UPA government in Jharkhand, already dogged by rows over distribution of portfolios, today geared up activities to ensure a smooth sailing in tomorrow's vote of confidence in the Assembly.

UPA-backed Independent MLA Madhu Koda who was sworn-in as Chief Minister along with three other ministers, at his first press conference last evening said he would first prove majority in the House before taking any decision on expansion of his cabinet. The UPA comprises 42 MLAs in the 82-member House.

Though Mr Koda dismissed as rumour the report about fissures in his day-old government over the appointment of eight remaining ministers, sources close to the UPA said the leadership was not keen on distributing portfolios before the trial of strength.

A senior Congress leader told sources today that if the 12 ministers, as claimed by Coal Minister Sibu Soren, had been administered oath yesterday, it would have created problems as the disgruntled MLAs might not even come to the Assembly to cast vote citing ill health.

According to sources, the Congress which extended outside support to the new UPA dispensation, was almost sure to see their man in the Speaker's post with party MLA Alamgir Alam being in the frontrunner.

But, state Congress president Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu was yesterday administered oath as officiating Speaker to conduct the affairs in the House.

Mr Alam might edge past other contenders on the ground that he belonged to minority community and as no other person of the community was holding any responsible post in the government.

It was learnt that from RJD having 7 MLAs, party's legislature wing leader Annapurna Devi was leading the group of contenders to get entry into the Koda cabinet. Ms Devi, a close aide of Mr Lalu Prasad, besides being a woman has made her case stronger, sources said.

RJD's Prakash Ram openly threatened to raise protest if he was denied the Deputy Chief Minister's post.

The JMM, the biggest ally in the government comprising 17 legislators, was understood to have made party Supremo Sibu Soren's job an uphill task as many of them reportedly were lobbying hard to get their ''dues''.

However, as Mr Soren said all could not be made ministers, among the names doing the rounds were party's legislature wing leader Sudhir Mahto and Mr Nalin Soren. Mr Mahto was also understood to have made strong demand for the deputy Chief Minister's post.

With RJD-JMM leadership busy engaged in pacifying MLAs craving for ministerial berths, Forward Block has said it will extend outside support to the government.

Significantly, CPI(ML) with lone member in the House has said it will not vote in favour of the UPA.

The Koda government was installed after 18-month-old Arjun Munda bowed out of power after four of his ministers, those who took oath yesterday, withdrew support on Deptember 5 reducing the NDA government to a minority.


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