Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MLA Hemant Soren was sworn in as Jharkhand’s ninth Chief Minister on Saturday a day after the Union Cabinet revoked President’s Rule in the State. Mr. Soren took oath at Birsa Mandap at Raj Bhavan at 9.30 a.m. along with the Congress’ Rajendra Prasad Singh and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)’s Annapurna Devi.
Mr. Hemant Soren had earlier won the support of 43 MLAs, including 18 from the JMM, 13 from the Congress, five from the RJD and seven from among smaller parties and Independents. A floor test to establish the majority of the coalition in the 82-member Assembly is expected to be conducted by Tuesday, said JMM and Congress leaders. This will be followed by an expansion of the Cabinet, which will consist of 12 Ministers — five from the JMM, five from the Congress and two from the RJD — said party sources.
JMM leaders said that though Independents such as Jharkhand Janadhikar Party MLA Bandhu Tirkey had been aspiring for a ministerial position, Independents were unlikely to be appointed as Ministers. This is believed to have been insisted on by Congress’ central leadership, which agreed to form a coalition government with the JMM in quid pro quo for a pre-poll alliance in which the Congress will contest 10 of 14 Lok Sabha seats in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
After the oath taking ceremony, Mr. Soren held a meeting with the newly appointed Ministers and senior officials at Project Bhawan, the State secretariat.
At the residence of former Chief Minister Shibu Soren in Mohrabadi in Ranchi, supporters burst firecrackers and distributed sweets. Party workers celebrated the oath-ceremony as “adhikaar diwas [day of rights]” in response to Opposition parties declaring the day “dhikkar diwas [day of shame]”. Through most of the day, Mr. Soren remained at his father’s residence meeting party functionaries.
Senior party leaders dismissed criticism that the government would be unstable given the reliance on Independents. “We have had several rounds of discussions with the Independents to reach common ground. We are hopeful that they too will see that the new government is in the interest of democracy rather than the alternative of fresh elections,” said a senior JMM leader. The incumbent Assembly, elected in September 2010, still has over a year-and-a-half remaining.
Political commentators felt the elevation of Hemant Soren marked the beginning of dynastic politics in the State. Mr. Hemant Soren, 37, is one of Mr. Shibu Soren’s three sons. He worked with engineering firms before contesting his first election against Stephen Marandi from Dumka in 2005, which he lost. He then became a Rajya Sabha member from the State and got more actively involved in State politics after the death of his older brother Durga Soren, who had been described as Shibu’s political successor in May 2009.
Mr. Shibu Soren attended the oath-taking ceremony on Saturday though, according to party functionaries, his health has been deteriorating.
“Hemant has not established himself as a grass roots leader yet like Guruji [Shibu]. JMM’s support has been weakened in their stronghold Santhal Pargana because of the creation of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) under [former Chief Minister] Babulal Marandi. Hemant will have to prove that he is capable of filling the political vacuum that will be created if Shibu withdraws from politics, and that the party’s future is safe with him,” said a political commentator.