“Can’t Buy Public”: Jharkhand In Churn As Chief Minister Hemant Soren Faces Disqualification


'Can't Buy Public': Jharkhand In Churn As Chief Minister Hemant Soren Faces Disqualification

Ranchi, New Delhi:

The likelihood that Chief Minister Hemant Soren may be disqualified as a legislator is already driving the rhetoric and strategies in Jharkhand’s politics, even as the final decision remains in a sealed envelope with the Governor.

“We are ready,” said Mr Soren in a tweet, “You may buy constitutional institutions, but how will you buy public support?” This came after an angry statement just a couple of hours before: “It apparently seems that BJP leaders, including a BJP MP and his puppet journalists, have themselves drafted the [Election Commission’s] report, which is otherwise a sealed cover report.”

The BJP — which had sought Mr Soren’s disqualification for having a mining contract with the government while being in office — is already demanding mid-term polls “on moral grounds”. But Mr Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and partner Congress are confident “the government will remain in place”.

“We definitely want Hemant Soren to remain the chief minister. We have the strength,” said Alamgir Alam, leader of the Congress Legislature Party, when asked if a new face would be put up if Mr Soren is disqualified, or if Mr Soren will take a fresh oath and recontest if he loses his assembly membership. “Let the Governor decide. The CM told me he hasn’t yet got any communication about the sealed report. We are working on our strategy.”

In the 82-member assembly, the JMM (30) and Congress (17) have 47 members — just above the majority mark — besides support from some others. The BJP is main Opposition with 25 members, as per the Vidhan Sabha website.

But the government was already spooked when three JMM MLAs were recently caught with Rs 50 lakh cash in neighbouring Bengal — leading to allegations that the BJP is “using money to topple the government”. The BJP has denied those allegations: “The JMM-Congress government is crumbling under its own corruption.”

Meanwhile, the Governor referred the matter of Mr Soren’s disqualification to the Election Commission, as required under Article 192 of the Constitution, after the BJP said Mr Soren violated Section 9A of the Representation of the People Act by doing business with the government.

Law says the Governor is bound by the opinion of the EC, which functions as a quasi-judicial body in such matters.

That opinion is in now, so a decision is expected anytime. The Governor was out of town but returned this afternoon.

BJP MP Nishikant Dubey has been saying, “Assembly should be dissolved and there should be elections in all 81 assembly constituencies.”

The disqualification matter moved fast over the last four days. The Election Commission concluded the hearings on Monday. Mr Soren’s team had concluded its arguments on August 12, following which the BJP filed its rejoinder. On August 18, both sides submitted written submissions.

On Tuesday, the EC sent its opinion to Governor Ramesh Bais, whose office received it the next day. BJP MP Dubey was among the first to tweet today that the EC’s letter has reached Raj Bhavan.


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