Soren aides fan out to lure Independents

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Ranchi, Aug 24 (UNI) Backed by support from Congress and RJD, JMM president Shibu Soren swung into action today with sole agenda to rope in the Independents, apparently loyalists of outgoing Chief Minister Madhu Koda, to muster required strength before staking claim for the alternative government in Jharkhand.

No sooner had Mr Koda resigned last evening than the JMM chief said he was not in a hurry but would stake his claim after August 25.

Hectic parleys began at Mr Soren's residence here at Morabadi to negotiate the stiff hurdle, posed by Mr Koda's statement yesterday that he and other Independents would not take part in the governemnt headed by ''guruji'' (as Soren is popularly called here).

However, going by the past trend of Independents in the state, the ''credibility'' of Mr Koda's assertion was doubtful as they had the dubious distinction of shifting loyalty always in favour of ''more powerful group''.

Mr Soren asserted that he had the magic figure to run the government but the outgoing Chief Minister, after handing over the resignation, told newspersons that ''the task lying ahead for Mr Soren would be extremely difficult.'' Meanwhile, in the backdrop of developing situation, five Independents, who were with Mr Koda at the Raj Bhavan yesterday, gathered at Mr Stephen Marandi's residence this morning.

The Independents, key to the formation of next government, included Mr Marandi, Joba Majhi, Chandra Prakash Chaudhuri, Bhanu Pratap Shahi and Harinarayan Rai.

Mr Marandi, the former Deputy Chief Minister, was seen rigid on his stand against supporting Mr Soren.

According to a report from New Delhi, RJD president Lalu Prasad said the party with seven Legislators would support the JMM.

The Congress, with nine Legislators, said it would help Mr Soren if he could muster the required strength.

The Koda-led UPA government was reduced to minority after the JMM withdrew support on August 17.

The JMM's arithmetic to gain power apparently depended on the support from the Congress (7), RJD (9), BJP dissidents (2), Independent Ministers (7), excluding Mr Koda and Mr Stephen Marandi, besides the party's own strength of 17 that totalled 42 in the House of 82, including one vacant seat caused by the death of Tamar Legislator Ramesh Singh Munda (JD-U), who was murdered by Maoists last month.

Besides the support from the RJD and the Congress, Mr Soren's main game plan would be to lure Independents.

UNI PRS DPM AE BD1345

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