Amid the deepening political crisis in Jharkhand, the ruling United Progressive Alliance on Tuesday shifted as many as 31 MLAs to the Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh to stave off any attempt by the Opposition BJP to poach its legislators in the State.
The MLAs, who arrived in State capital Raipur on a chartered flight around 6 p.m., were taken to Mayfair Resort in Nava Raipur, where they are expected to stay for the next two days. The MLAs belong to the Congress and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM).
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel visited the resort around 9.30 p.m. Congress leaders Girish Dewangan, Sunny Agrawal and Ramgopal Agrawal received the MLAs at the airport and accompanied them to the resort, around 10 km away.
Earlier, Chief Minister Hemant Soren accompanied the MLAs to the Birsa Munda airport in Ranchi. He returned to his official residence after the flight took off shortly after 4.30 p.m.
Some JMM MLAs and Ministers are said to be staying put in Ranchi to tackle the situation in the State. However, all four Ministers from the Congress were on the flight to Raipur. Mr. Soren faces disqualification as an MLA for allegedly violating electoral laws.
Speaking to mediapersons, Mr. Soren said the ruling coalition was “totally prepared to respond to the conspirators in the State”.
“Nothing untoward is going to happen but the coalition is ready to face any situation. We are preparing a strategy to tackle it and you’ve seen a glimpse of that strategy today. In future too, you will be seeing all this.”
On whether he would join the MLAs at the resort, Mr. Soren said, “We will see.”
Meanwhile, the BJP leadership in Delhi is closely watching the developments in Jharkhand. Sources in the party said the BJP was still unsure of the numbers situation, as although some Congress MLAs had allegedly been in touch with the BJP, it was not a comfortable situation for the party to make a move.
“There is definitely a division in the thinking over Jharkhand, with some leaders in favour of moving ahead with a change of government, but others, specifically former Chief Minister Babulal Marandi, not in favour of doing anything precipitate,” a senior source in the BJP said.
“Mr. Marandi is clear that the JMM-Congress government should not be tampered with and the BJP should face off against the alliance in the next Assembly poll, which, Mr. Marandi feels will be won by the BJP as there were many issues that the alliance could be cornered on,” the source added.
On August 27, 39 UPA MLAs had gone to a guest house in Khunti district, some 40 km from State capital Ranchi for lunch and a boat ride.
They remained there for four hours and returned to Ranchi in the evening. Since then, speculation was rife that the MLAs would be shifted to another State to prevent any poaching attempts.
The Opposition BJP had lodged a complaint with the Governor against Mr. Soren over the mining lease. The Governor had sought opinion from the Election Commission of India (ECI) on the issue in February.
On August 25, the commission reportedly had sent its opinion to the Governor in a sealed envelope.
The BJP leaders triggered a row by saying that the commission had recommended “disqualification of Mr Soren as member of the State Assembly”.
However, the Governor is yet to come out with any decision over the reported notice of the commission.
(With inputs from Shubhomoy Sikdar in Raipur)