Jharkhand Governor nominates Champai Soren as Chief Minister

Hemant’s plea in Supreme Court challenging his arrest by ED to be heard on Friday; ruling coalition MLAs have been housed at the Ranchi Circuit House

February 01, 2024 11:43 pm | Updated February 02, 2024 06:57 am IST - Ranchi/New Delhi

Jharkhand Governor presents the letter to invite JMM leader Champai Soren to form a government in the State. Champai Soren will take oath as Chief Minister on February 2, 2024. Photo: Special Arrangement

Jharkhand Governor presents the letter to invite JMM leader Champai Soren to form a government in the State. Champai Soren will take oath as Chief Minister on February 2, 2024. Photo: Special Arrangement

Jharkhand Governor C.P. Radhakrishnan invited Champai Soren to form the government late on February 1. Mr. Champai will take oath as the Chief Minister on Friday.

Mr. Champai was elected as the new leader of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) Legislature Party following Hemant Soren’s arrest by the Enforcement Directorate on January 31 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after he met the Governor and submitted his resignation as Chief Minister.

OPINION | Change in Jharkhand: on political leaders under the ED’s scanner 

Earlier in the evening, Mr. Champai, accompanied by Congress leader Alamgir Alam, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MLA Satyanand Bhokta, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) MLA Vinod Singh and Congress MLA Pradeep Yadav went to Raj Bhavan and staked their claim to form the government.

After meeting the Governor, Mr. Champai had said, “We have staked claim to form the government. I urged the Governor to allow us to form the government. The Governor said that he will soon inform us.”

While a delay on the part of Mr. Radhakrishnan in calling Mr. Champai to form the government sparked criticism from the ruling camp, the Governor gave his nod late in the day. Till 5 p.m., the MLAs were hoping that the Governor would invite them to form the government, Mr. Champai said.  

Meanwhile, a special PMLA court on February 1 sent Mr. Hemant Soren to judicial custody for a day. He was taken to Hotwar Central Jail in Ranchi after the court reserved its order for Friday.

The ED had sought 10 days’ remand for the former CM. The 48-year-old executive president of the JMM will spend the night in the upper division cell of B-block in Central Jail.

Mr. Hemant Soren, meanwhile, urged the Supreme Court to hear his plea against the arrest. Appearing before a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and A.M. Singhvi said such arrests of sitting Chief Ministers “affect the polity of the country”. Chief Justice Chandrachud agreed to consider listing the case before an appropriate Bench on February 2.

Fears of horse-trading

Ruling coalition MLAs had been housed at the Ranchi Circuit House since February 1 morning, waiting for the Governor’s call. The JMM released a video ‘roll call’ on social media in which all the MLAs counted themselves — 43 in total — to prove that they have the required count to form the government in the 81-member Jharkhand Assembly. The JMM-led alliance claimed to have the support of 47 MLAs. It said only 43 of them were present at the ‘roll call’ as the rest of the MLAs were unwell.

Soon after this development, one bus which was parked inside the circuit house took 38 MLAs, along with their luggage, to Ranchi airport where two chartered flights were waiting. However, the MLAs had to return to the Circuit House as the flights couldn’t take off due to poor visibility caused by fog.

“We have never seen such a situation where the Governor is so adamant and not inviting the party with majority to form the government. We are sensing that something may happen with our legislators so we are taking them to a safer place. We will not allow democracy to be sold off,” Jharkhand Congress chief Rajesh Thakur had said earlier at the airport.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge shared a video on X (formerly Twitter) of the ‘roll call’ of Congress and JMM MLAs. “In the House of 81 MLAs, only 41 form a majority. Despite having the support of 48 MLAs, not inviting Champai Soren ji to form the government is clearly contempt of the Constitution and denial of public mandate. Nails are being hammered in the coffin of Indian democracy by ‘His Excellencies’,” Mr. Kharge had said.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said this is yet another example of political injustice “for which the Prime Minister and Home Minister duo are considered experts”.

Rajya Sabha member and senior Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi asked if the Centre wants to impose President’s Rule in Jharkhand. Addressing a press conference along with Lok Sabha member Saptgiri Ulaka, Mr. Singhvi asked whether the Governor was waiting for some instructions from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Home Minister’s office.

BJP MP Nishikant Dubey took a jibe at the parading of the MLAs and said, “Split in Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, National President Shibu Soren ji, MLAs Sita Soren ji and Basant Soren ji were not seen in today’s parade.”

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