Presidentís rule likely as Munda quits, Cong wary

FP

Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda quit Tuesday morning after the JMM formally pulled out of the government. Submitting his resignation to Governor Syed Ahmed, he sought fresh elections.

The governor urged him to continue as caretaker CM till an alternative arrangement is put in place.

However, the state appeared headed for another spell of President's rule, with Congress president Sonia Gandhi learnt to be against propping up a government. Party legislators from the state are, however, camping in New Delhi to pressure the central leadership to explore the option of forming a government along with the JMM, RJD and Independents.

The JMM submitted the letter withdrawing support to the Munda government, reducing it to a minority, at 10.30 am. An hour later, Munda reached the governor's official residence, after presiding over an emergency meeting of his Cabinet, and resigned. He also conveyed to Ahmed the Cabinet recommendation that the Assembly be dissolved and fresh elections held.

The JMM indicated it hoped to lead a new government with Congress support. "We hope the Congress will now do whatever is necessary to strengthen democratic institutions. We should put an end to this political instability as fast as possible," JMM spokesperson and core committee member Supriyo Bhattacharya said.

Both the JMM and BJP have 18 MLAs in the current Assembly. The Congress has 13, and can count on the RJD's five legislators.

Should that alliance fructify, the JMM will almost certainly insist on party supremo Shibu Soren's son Hemant being made CM. He was the deputy CM in the outgoing regime and the dispute over the chief ministership was the main reason the JMM withdrew support to the Munda-led government. During negotiations, the JMM was learnt to have also demanded that Munda be replaced with Khunti MLA Nilkanth Singh Munda, but the BJP had refused to agree.

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