On Sunday, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) leaders in Jharkhand reportedly urged Governor Ramesh Bais to address the speculations of disqualifying Chief Minister Hemant Soren as an MLA from the state assembly. This was following a report by the Election Commission of India (ECI), which suggested Soren’s possible dismissal over an alleged office-of-profit case.
UPA leaders belonging to the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) held a joint press conference following a closed-door meeting. “If there is any report from the Election Commission, the governor should make it public and announce his decision,” said JMM MLA Champai Soren. He added that this delay is hampering the developmental works in the state. Furthermore, the leaders also expressed concern that this confusion could lead to poaching of MLAs.
Last week, on Thursday, a report by the ECI supposedly suggested disqualifying CM Soren as an MLA. The decision is not official yet, but was reportedly sent to Governor Bais on August 25. The ECI’s report came following a petition filed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seeking CM Soren’s disqualification from the assembly over the office-of-profit case. Meanwhile, the incumbent CM has maintained that he has not received any notice from either the ECI or the governor on the matter.
The petition that was filed earlier this year, in February, cited the violation of section 9(A) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which states, “A person shall be disqualified if, and for so long as, there subsists a contract entered into by him in the course of his trade or business with the appropriate government for the supply of goods to, or for the execution of any works undertaken by, that government.” The BJP alleged that CM Soren, who also holds the state’s mining portfolio, allotted a mining lease in his own name in 2021. An office-of-profit means a position that brings a person financial gains or benefits.
The UPA leaders have indicated that by not making a decision the governor is pushing the state towards a crisis. “Does Raj Bhavan want to fuel horse trading by buying time? What is the legal advice that he is not able to take? This is an insult to democracy and the people,” said the leaders in a joint statement. Reportedly, they also noted that the BJP could attempt to stage a coup, giving the example of Maharashtra. Earlier this year, in June, several MLAs in the state, led by Eknath Shinde, created their own faction of the Shiv Sena against the Uddhav Thackeray government, going on to create a new government with the help of the BJP.
“We have seen how the dignity of the post of governor was degraded in Maharashtra and other states,” read the joint statement, according to PTI. “This is unfortunate. It is very sad that an outside gang is operating in the state,” it continued. The statement also alleged that the BJP cannot handle a tribal CM. While urgin the governor to be decisive, it stated, “The Constitution has given the responsibility of protecting the rights of Adivasi-Dalit on your shoulders.”
In response to the statement, BJP state unit president and MP Deepak Prakash reportedly remarked, “Law will take its own course.” Amid fears of his MLAs being poached by the BJP, on Saturday, CM Soren took the alliance members to a resort in Khunti district, 32 kms from the state capital Ranchi. This was also after reports surfaced suggesting that Governor Bais had received the ECI’s recommendation to disqualify the incumbent CM as MLA.
Subsequently, taking a shot at Soren, senior BJP leader Babulal Marandi said that the CM is “busy enjoying a picnic”, while the entire state machinery has ground to a halt. He also took to Twitter to share a picture of Soren’s boat ride, alongside another picture of a woman who was allegedly set on fire by a stalker in Dumka. Marandi said, “Both these pictures are from the same day… The ruling dispensation has no time to take care of you. If possible, please forgive us, daughter.”
As the political crisis grows deeper, the state’s health minister Banna Gupta alleged that this is a “pre-planned conspiracy” to destabilise the government. “We want to know from the governor that if the Election Commission has sent something, then it should be made public. The ED has raided for months but nothing was found,” he told ANI.
Furthermore, while indicating that his government has a full majority in the state, the JMM minister dared the BJP to impose Article 365 and dislodge the state government. “Otherwise, it should not talk rubbish. The people of the state are now disturbed with all of this. The entire system has been stalled,” he added. The aforementioned article of the Indian constitution imposes the President’s rule in a state which fails to comply with the directions of the Union government.
Notably, in the 81-member Jharkhand Assembly, the Soren-led JMM holds a majority with 30 MLAs, while their allies – the Congress and the RJD – have 18 MLAs and one legislator, respectively. On the other hand, their main opposition is the BJP, with 26 MLAs. Banna Gupta asserted that the ruling camp will continue to fight, claiming to have the support of over 50 MLAs. “We’ll fight and will never relent. (The) state’s Governor has to make the decision (regarding the disqualification of CM Soren as MLA) public at the earliest, then only we can see further. We have a number above 50,” he stated.
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