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Arjun Munda to replace Marandi

March 17, 2003 19:25 IST

Arjun Munda was on Monday chosen leader of the BJP legislature party in Jharkhand.

He will take over from Babulal Marandi.

The legislature party leader's election, which lasted for almost five hours, averted, at least for the time being, a crisis.

Arjun Munda

Seven ministers had ditched the chief minister and, along with opposition MLAs, elected assembly Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari their leader. They then staked claim to form the government.

Governor Rama Jois, however, rejected the dissidents' demand and asked the Marandi government to undergo a trial of strength before March 31.

Namdhari wanted the trial of strength on Monday, but his plan did not succeed because Marandi chose to resign.

The Jharkhand assembly has been adjourned till March 21 and, according to the BJP, it will prove its majority on March 27.

BJP sources in Ranchi told that the Namdhari camp within the National Democratic Alliance in Jharkhand would find it difficult to escape the provisions of the anti-defection law, which stipulates that at least one-third of legislators must defect in order for it to be valid.

The chief minister has, reportedly, wooed back two of the dissident ministers.

However, the speaker maintains that he has the majority in the 81-member assembly.

Arjun Munda is known to be close to Union minister Karia Munda, a tribal with strong support in the state.

Karia Munda is perceived to be close to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee while Marandi is said to enjoy the confidence of Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani.

The NDA legislators will meet the governor later in the evening after which the date of Arjun Munda's swearing-in will be decided.

Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi