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Exclusive! Cong's devious ways
Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi |
March 05, 2005 20:21 IST
Last Updated: March 06, 2005 19:23 IST
Politics doesn't get more bizarre than this!
After the Goa political fiasco, the crude face of Indian democracy again surfaced in Ranchi, Jharkhand.
The events that unfolded after the people's verdict threw up a hung assembly is hard evidence of the lengths parties can go to wrest power.
All that the Bharatiya Janata Party-Janata Dal(U) alliance did to add five more numbers to achieve a majority is more or less well known.
Jharkhand trust vote on March 15 | Mr Advani, we understand your outrage
What did Congress-Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Rashtriya Janata Dal do to defeat the BJP-JD(U) from forming the government?
They chased newly-elected independent legislators like gangsters in Mumbai's underworld do.
In the first of a two-part series, rediff.com presents an exclusive account of how the Congress planned and ruthlessly executed their operation in Ranchi to cobble up an artificial majority and how it failed.
Stop this nonsense about our great democracy
How NDA pulled off Operation Decoy
A senior Congressman, who was a member of the Congress team in Ranchi deputed to grab the power, shares an hour-by-hour account of the operation exclusively with rediff.com.
The events that he reconstructed are such that he would not like to speak on record.
Read on for a glimpse of the devious saga of Indian politics, 2005.
Was Jharkhand guv's decision right?
"In Jharkhand, the Congress party is simply non-existent. There is hardly any activity in the state Congress body. During the election campaign, all the meetings of Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were organised from New Delhi.
Even the banners of their podium were printed in New Delhi. Mobiles phones were used as hotlines between Ranchi and New Delhi's Congress headquarters to manage the campaigns.
'Doesn't Sonia have any shame?'
As the anti-incumbency wave against the Arjun Munda government was visible before the voting day, we expected at least a simple majority. We had assessed that the Congress-Jharkhand Mukti Morcha combine would get 35 seats and the Rashtriya Janata Dal would get 6 to 7 seats.
The results were much below our expectations. Nevertheless, we did take into account the unexpected and extended logistic and financial support to around 15 to 20 Independents who were fighting directly against the BJP.
Fernandes: Let this Delhiwali go!
Starting a week before counting day Congress managers in Ranchi were in daily touch with candidates like Stephen Marandi, former JMM leader who fought from Dumka.
We got the assurance that he would support us. He had lent his election symbol, drum (nagara), to his friend Har Narayan Roy, who was fighting from Jarmundi."
Both had given signals that they will back the Congress if and when needed.
Congress leaders were also in constant touch with the now-famous Enos Ekka of Kolebira reserved constituency, which has a Christians dominance.
He was fighting under the banner of the Jharkhand party.
He was kept in good humour with help of local bishops and Roman Catholics priests close to the Congress.
Sudesh Mahto, who fought from Silli constituency, was a former minister in the BJP-led government.
His weak point was that he was facing serious charges of corruption and he would need Congress support in New Delhi in case of any CBI inquiry against him in the future.
Madhu Kodah of Jaganthpur was fighting as an independent and was in touch with Congress leaders staying in Ranchi's Arya Hotel.
Madhu Tirkey and Chandraprakash Chaudhry were talking on the phone to both the Congress and the BJP.
It has now been proved that they were two-timing the Congress.
The BSNL cell phones of all these candidates can prove these details.
On counting day, Congress president's office asked senior leaders like R K Anand, Harikesh Bahadur, C P N Singh and Imran Kidwai to fly to Ranchi.
Before joining the Congress, Rajya Sabha MP and lawyer Anand was in the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.
He was lawyer for Shibu Soren and others in the infamous case of bribery by former PM Narsimha Rao.
Anand has deep connections inside Jharkhand because he has been advisor to Shibu Soren and Stephen Marandi.
The Congressmen stayed at Arya Hotel in Ranchi. Anand was in room number 103, which was the place where most of the plotting was done.
On February 27, as the results started pouring in their list of more than 15 Independents and small parties' candidates was seen reducing.
Only around 8 candidates who had accepted Congress's logistic support could win.
On the same day, a chopper was kept ready to fetch elected candidates whose support might be needed.
Pradip Kumar Balmuchu, Congress leader of Jharkhand, won from Ghatsila.
The Congress coterie in Ranchi sent a chopper to pick him up from his constituency.
Being a local man he was needed to help coordinate the crucial operation that had just begun.
Anand talked to Enos Ekka in Kolebira. On February 27 itself he was told that Congress would send a helicopter to fetch him as soon as Balmuchu arrived from Ghatsila.
But when Balmuchu arrived at Ranchi airport in the afternoon, BJP leaders camping in the city were alerted.
The Congress alleged that an air traffic controller at Ranchi airport did not give the chopper permission to fly again that day.
After all it was their caretaker government in Ranchi and the police and administration were taking CM Arjun Munda's orders.
The Congress team's first plan to secure Ekka failed.
From the point of view of the Congress gameplan, it was the most costly failure.
Another Congress MLA, Neil Tirkey, of Simdega was then alerted to pick up Ekka.
Neil and Ekka were constantly in touch with the Congress team in Arya Hotel.
"Murghi" (as the Congress sponsored candidates were known) were not easy to catch once they got elected.
The Congress team reported to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi that Neil was indeed sent to escort Ekka after midnight on February 27.
The Congressmen took it for granted that Ekka's voters (majority of them Christians) would deter him from turning to the BJP-led NDA.
On the morning of February 28, when Tirkey and Ekka were about to start by car a chopper sent by the BJP from Ranchi landed on the roads of Kolebira and "simply frisked him away", according to a Congressman.
Tirkey called Anand in Ranchi and said that Ekka has escaped with the BJP.
Anand screamed, "mar gaye!" (we're done for).
Complete Coverage: Assembly Elections 2005