NEW DELHI, Feb 5: The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-led alliance government headed by chief minister Champai Soren in Jharkhand comfortably passed the majority test in the State Assembly on Monday getting 47 votes in the 81-member Assembly with 29 against and one abstention. With one MLA resigning last month, the majority mark in the Assembly was 41.
The ruling coalition comprising the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal had earlier expressed confidence that they would sail through. Independent legislator Saryu Roy abstained. The BJP-led opposition has 26 legislators of the saffron party and three of the AJSU Party.
The floor test in Jharkhand Assembly was held in the wake of dramatic developments in the tribal-dominated state, starting from former Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s late-night resignation, followed by his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate, on January 31. Hemant Soren is being investigated by the central agency in a money laundering case. The JMM leader has denied the allegations and termed them a BJP conspiracy. In his remarks ahead of the floor test, Champai Soren said he would run his government like “Hemant Soren part – II.”
Hemant Soren was present in Assembly for the floor test with court’s permission. In his emotionally charged speech, Hemant Soren hit out at the BJP-led central government, alleging a “slow-cooked” conspiracy to jail him. He did not spare the Governor either, accusing the Raj Bhavan of involvement in this conspiracy. Earlier, the JMM and Congress had questioned the delay in the Jharkhand Governor inviting Champai Soren to form the government, despite the ruling coalition staking claim soon after Hemant Soren’s resignation.
The former Chief Minister also dared the BJP to produce evidence against him in the land irregularities case he has been arrested in. “Show me the proof and I will quit politics,” he said. In a strong charge for tribals, Mr Soren attacked the BJP and accused it of looking down on backward communities. “We left the jungle, came and sat next to them and their clothes are soiled. They see us as untouchables. If left to them, we would be back in the jungle,” he said.
Mr Soren targeted BJP leaders from Jharkhand “who bow before those with feudal mindset.” “It has been 24 years since Jharkhand was formed. Which party was in power for the longest time? All corruption started in 2019?” “They do not want tribals to rise. They do not want us to become judges, IPS or IAS officers. They do not want us to become leaders,” he said, adding that he knew that hurdles will be created to ensure that he does not complete his five-year term.
The 48-year-old working president of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, who started his political career in the shadow of his father and party founder Shibu Soren, has surprised many over the past week with deft political moves that helped save the government in Jharkhand.
Last Monday, a team of Enforcement Directorate officials reached Hemant Soren’s Delhi residence and conducted searches in connection with the money laundering case against him. Official sources said Mr Soren was untraceable and even his staff members were clueless about his whereabouts. The BJP was quick to seize the opportunity and declare the Chief Minister “missing” and claim that Jharkhand was in the middle of a constitutional crisis. The JMM, however, kept assuring that they are in touch with Hemant Soren and he will appear before the agency on January 31. The plane on which Hemant Soren had reached Delhi remained parked in the airport, and ED officials said they had no idea about where he was.
On January 30, Hemant Soren surfaced in Ranchi and met MLAs of the ruling coalition of JMM, Congress and RJD. It appears that Mr Soren managed to pull off a rather challenging feat for a Chief Minister — a 1,300 km road trip dodging media, enforcement agencies and tool booth cameras.
The Leader of Opposition in Jharkhand Assembly, Babulal Marandi, had cited media reports to claim that Mr Soren left his Delhi residence on foot on Sunday night. It is also unclear how the Chief Minister knew that ED officials would raid his house the next day and left just in time.
Hemant Soren was questioned by ED officials through Wednesday and when it became clear that he would be arrested, he pulled off a bold move that may have just saved his government. Hemant Soren refused to sign the arrest memo before he resigned as Chief Minister, according to ED sources. The arrest of a sitting Chief Minister would have created the possibility of the imposition of President’s rule in the state on the ground of Constitutional crisis.
Following his refusal to sign the memo, ED officials took Hemant Soren to the Governor’s residence. But when he went there, top legislators from the ruling coalition were with him. Immediately after Hemant Soren stepped down, Champai Soren staked claim to form the government.
Earlier, Champai Soren was elected leader of JMM’s legislative party, putting an end to speculation that Hemant Soren may pass the baton to his wife Kalpana. In fact, the opposition to the choice of Kalpana Soren as Chief Minister came from within the Soren family. Hemant Soren’s sister-in-law Sita, JMM MLA from Jama, had said she would oppose any move to make Kalpana Soren the chief minister because she “has no political experience.” The party leadership, in no mood to risk a rift in the ranks at this critical point, went for the safer option – Shibu Soren’s long-term aide, 67-year-old Champai Soren.
JMM and the Congress have accused Governor CP Radhakrishnan of delaying the government formation in Jharkhand, despite Champai Soren staking claim soon after Hemant Soren stepped down on January 31. On February 1, Champai Soren wrote to the Governor, saying that there is no government in Jharkhand for 18 hours and urging him to take immediate steps. Later that day, he and other leaders of the JMM-Congress alliance met the Governor. In fact, the MLAs backing Champai Soren also recorded a roll call of sorts and showed it to the Governor as a proof of majority.
The next day, Champai Soren took oath as Jharkhand Chief Minister along with two deputies, Congress’s Alamgir Alam and RJD’s Satyanand Bhokta.
Champai Soren had taken the oath, but the real battle was the floor test held on Monday. As Champai Soren and his two deputies took the oath, MLAs in the ruling coalition were put on a flight to Hyderabad. They were lodged in a private resort in Hyderabad to prevent any poaching attempt by the BJP ahead of the crucial floor test. Just ahead of the floor test, the MLAs camping in Hyderabad were flown back to Ranchi.