Soren receives shot in arms with crack in independents' unity

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Ranchi, Aug 24 (UNI) JMM president Shibu Soren tonight moved closer to the chair of chief minister after most of Independent MLAs Dida volte-face expressing allegiance to him.

Significantly, according to a report from Patna, Railway Minister and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad claimed that it was almost final for the JMM leader to become next Chief Minister.

Mr Prasad, who had a lot of appreciation for outgoing Chief Minister Madhu Koda, told mediapersons in Patna that it was almost final that Mr Soren would succeed Mr Koda.

Within hours of outgoing the chief minister's assertion that all seven Independent MLAs stood united, cracked in the group came to the fore with former health minister Bhanu Pratap Shahi rallying behind the JMM chief this evening.

Mr Soren personally went to Mr Shahi's residence and after the meeting the latter said he would support ''Guruji''.

The JMM source claimed that so far at least six Independents extended suppot to Mr Soren.

Mr Shahi said the Independent legislators submitted a 12-point demand in exchange of their support.

The sources close to Mr Shahi said once the 12-point demand was accepted the Independents would stand united to offer their support.

However, outgoing Chief Minister Madhu Koda reiterated that his earlier stand stood firm and there were no question of his taking part in the Soren-led government.

Earlier, addressing a press conference at his residence Mr Koda claimed that all the seven independents, including him were united.

Backed by support from Congress and RJD, the JMM president swung into action early today with sole agenda to rope in the Independents.

No sooner had Mr Koda resigned last evening that 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 government 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''.

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