Suspense in Jharkhand as Chief Minister Hemant Soren may face disqualification

The Election Commission is understood to have sent its recommendation in office-of-profit allegation

August 25, 2022 01:44 pm | Updated August 26, 2022 08:05 am IST - Patna/New Delhi:

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren gestures to the media after a Cabinet meeting in Ranchi on August 25, 2022.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren gestures to the media after a Cabinet meeting in Ranchi on August 25, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

Hemant Soren's continuation as Jharkhand Chief Minister remained uncertain on Thursday as the Election Commission of India (ECI) is understood to have conveyed its decision in the office-of-profit allegation against him to Governor Ramesh Bais.

While the Governor, who returned from Delhi, did not immediately summon the Chief Minister, State BJP leaders claimed that Mr. Soren's disqualification as an MLA has been recommended by the ECI.

Earlier in the day, an ECI official in Delhi said that the recommendation in the case has been sent in a sealed cover.

The matter was referred to the ECI after the BJP complained to the Governor about Mr. Soren allocating a mining lease to himself while holding the portfolio of Mines Minister in 2021. The ECI was asked to examine the matter and recommend whether Mr. Soren should be disqualified or not.

Responding to reports of the ECI’s decision, the Chief Minister’s Office said in a statement: “The Chief Minister is apprised of several media reports about ECI sending a report to hon’ble Governor Jharkhand ‘apparently recommending his disqualification as a MLA’. No communication in this regard has been received by CMO from either ECI or Governor.”

“It apparently seems that BJP leaders including a BJP MP and his puppet journalists have themselves drafted the ECI report, which is otherwise a sealed cover report. This blatant misuse of Constitutional authorities and public agencies and its complete takeover by the BJP HQ in Deendayal Upadhyaya Marg in this shameful manner is unseen in Indian democracy,” Mr. Soren said via the statement.

Meanwhile, hectic activity was seen at Mr. Soren’s residence in Ranchi. The State Advocate General and some Ministers were seen entering Mr. Soren’s official residence apparently to mull over the party’s strategy on the issue. A senior JMM leader told The Hindu over phone, “If the CM is disqualified, the Speaker could buy some time to challenge the Governor’s order. We are prepared otherwise as well.” Ruling alliance partner Congress’s Legislature Party Leader Alamgir Alam, who too met the CM on Thursday said, “Let the Governor decide first. We are working on our strategy.” State BJP leaders too had reached the party headquarters and were waiting for the Governor to summon the CM.

According to a Jharkhand Raj Bhawan official, Mr. Bais was visiting Delhi for medical treatment and reached Ranchi only around 2 p.m. on Thursday.

BJP MP from Godda, Nishikant Dubey, criticised the CM in Ranchi. “CM Hemant Soren should head towards mid-term polls on moral grounds. The Assembly should be dissolved and there should be elections in all 81 constituencies. The BJP has been demanding this,” said Mr. Dubey. Other State BJP leaders too said that the Governor had received the ECI letter recommending the disqualification of the Chief Minister as MLA. “Let’s see what action the Governor takes in the case. He [Mr. Soren] should not only be stripped of his [Assembly] membership but should also be debarred from contesting elections. He misused his position,” former Jharkhand Chief Minister and senior State BJP leader Raghuvar Das said.

Responding to BJP leaders’ comments, JMM general secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya said, “The Governor himself has said that he has no information about any letter from ECI delivered at Raj Bhwan. It’s all propaganda which is being spread by BJP leaders and ECI should take suo-motu cognisance of it and file criminal cases against such leaders.” Mr. Bhattacharya was addressing the media along with party MP Vijay Hansda at the JMM headquarters in Ranchi. He further said, “What the Governor is not aware about, BJP leaders in the State know.”

On Wednesday, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had searched the premises of Prem Prakash, an alleged close aide of the CM. Two AK-47 series of rifles and 60 cartridges were seized from the residence of Mr. Prakash, the agency said.

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