Suspense in Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren may face disqualification

New Delhi: Hemant Soren’s continuance as Jharkhand chief minister remained uncertain on Thursday as the Election Commission of India (ECI) conveyed its decision to Governor Ramesh Bais on charges of office of profit against him.

While the governor who returned from Delhi did not immediately summon the chief minister, state BJP leaders claimed that the Election Commission has recommended disqualification of Mr Soren as an MLA.

Earlier in the day, an Election Commission official in Delhi said that the recommendation in the matter has been sent in a sealed cover.

The BJP had complained to the governor that Mr Soren had allotted himself a mining lease in 2021, holding the portfolio of Mines Minister. The Election Commission was asked to investigate the matter and recommend whether Mr. Soren should be. disqualified or not.

Responding to reports of the Election Commission’s decision, the Chief Minister’s Office said in a statement: “The Chief Minister has been apprised of several media reports that the Election Commission has sent a report to the Hon’ble Governor of Jharkhand ‘clearly referring to an MLA’. The CMO has not received any message from the Election Commission or the Governor in this regard.

“It appears that BJP leaders including a BJP MP and his puppet journalists have themselves drafted the EC report, which is otherwise a sealed cover report. This blatant misuse of constitutional authorities and public agencies and this shamefully complete takeover by the BJP headquarters at Deendayal Upadhyay Marg is unseen in Indian democracy,” Mr Soren said via statement.

During this, there was hustle and bustle at Mr. Soren’s residence in Ranchi. The state advocate general and some ministers were seen entering Mr Soren’s official residence to deliberate on the party’s strategy on the issue. A senior JMM leader told The Hindu over phone, “If the CM is ineligible, the Speaker can buy some time to challenge the governor’s order. We are ready otherwise.” Alamgir Alam, the legislature party leader of ruling coalition ally Congress, who met the CM on Thursday, said, “Let the governor decide first. We are working on our strategy.” State BJP leaders had also reached the party headquarters and were waiting for the Governor to summon the CM.

According to an official of the Jharkhand Raj Bhavan, Mr. Bais was coming to Delhi for treatment and reached Ranchi around 2 pm. on Thursday.

BJP MP from Godda Nishikant Dubey criticized CM in Ranchi. “CM Hemant Soren should move towards mid-term elections on moral grounds. Elections should be held in all 81 constituencies by dissolving the assembly. The BJP has been demanding this,” Mr. Dubey said. Other BJP leaders in the state also said that the governor had received the Election Commission letter recommending disqualification of the chief minister as an MLA. What action does he take in the matter. He [Mr. Soren] should not only be stripped of his [assembly] membership but also debarred from contesting elections. He misused his position,” said former Jharkhand chief minister and senior state senior 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 knowledge of any letter from the ECI given at the Raj Bhavan. This is all propaganda which is being spread by BJP leaders and the Election Commission should take suo motu cognizance of it and register criminal cases against such leaders. Mr Bhattacharya was addressing the media at the JMM headquarters in Ranchi along with party MP Vijay Hansda. He further said, “What the governor does not know, the BJP leaders of the state know.”

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