As the suspense over the fate of Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren continues to raise the political temperatures in the state, the opposition BJP on Sunday lashed out at him over his “picnic” on a boat with MLAs at Latratu dam in Khunti district the day before .
Senior BJP leader Babulal Marandi said the CM was “busy enjoying a picnic”, while the entire state machinery has ground to a halt.
His colleague and former minister Bhanu Pratap Shahi demanded Soren’s resignation ahead of any formal declaration of his disqualification as an MLA by the governor.
The EC is believed to have sent a missive recommending disqualification of Soren as a legislator in a mining lease case by Governor Ramesh Bais on Friday. However, no action has been initiated so far.
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The ruling UPA alliance, led by the JMM, has however ruled out any resignation at this stage and asserted that it has the strength in the Assembly to continue its rule.
The ruling JMM-Congress-RJD coalition, worried by what they see as moves by the BJP to poach their alliance, had moved MLAs in three buses towards the Chhattisgarh border on Saturday only to make a U-turn in the evening to return to the state capital, after having spent a few hours at Latratu.
“We had a fun-filled boat ride and picnic,” a senior Congress leader had claimed. In a tweet sharing a photo of Soren’s boat ride along side that of a woman who was allegedly set on fire by a man 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.”
Former BJP minister and legislator Bhanu Pratap Shahi hit out at Soren, stating that he should resign on his own instead of attacking constitutional bodies.
The CM had in a tweet recently said that constitutional institutions “can be bought”, but “how does one purchase the support of common people”.
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Objecting to CM’s statements, Shahi said, “Soren should clarify under what circumstances did he take the mining lease in his name and whether the Constitution permitted it.”
The BJP has sought Soren’s disqualification for allegedly violating Section 9 (A) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which deals with disqualification for government contracts, by extending himself a mining lease.
The clause states that “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 issue was referred to the governor and by him to the EC, as Article 192 of the Constitution states that on rulings regarding an MLA’s disqualification, the question shall be referred to the governor who in turn “shall obtain the opinion of the Election Commission and shall act according to such opinion”.
Sources in Raj Bhavan said the poll panel has recommended the chief minister’s disqualification as an MLA, but there has been no official confirmation on the matter as yet.
The JMM and the Congress have maintained that they would firmly stand behind Soren.
Speculations are still rife that the ruling coalition MLAs may go to an undisclosed destination in some “friendly state” such as West Bengal or Chhattisgarh as the BJP may make a serious attempt to poach legislators in a bid to topple the government in a manner “similar to Maharashtra”.
Congress general secretary and Jharkhand in-charge Avinash Pandey had on Saturday held a meeting with party legislators to discuss the situation at hand and plan a strategy.
Pandey, lambasting the BJP, said, “The way the opponent had been trying to destabilize the government is not good for a democracy. We will discuss and review the situation and chalk out a strategy.”
He reiterated that there was no threat to the UPA government.
The ruling coalition has 49 MLAs in the 81-member Assembly.
The JMM, the largest party, has 30 MLAs, the Congress 18 legislators, and the RJD one. The main opposition BJP has 26 MLAs in the House.