In a show of strength in the Jharkhand Assembly, the JMM-led ruling alliance won a trust vote it called on Monday with 48 MLAs voting in favour of the government in the 82-member House even as the Opposition BJP and AJSU boycotted the proceedings.
The special session was marked by a spirited address from Chief Minister Hemant Soren, who accused the BJP of trying to bring down his government and questioned the Governor for not clearing the air on the Election Commission’s recommendation on his eligibility to continue as MLA over the question of granting himself a mining lease last year.
The BJP later criticised Soren for calling the vote, saying “the government does not have any trust in its own MLAs”.
The trust vote win is being seen as a boost to the credibility of the Soren government while temporarily settling the uncertainty over its future. But JMM sources acknowledged that it does not settle the cracks in the ruling alliance emanating from the suspense over Soren’s fate as MLA. “The real test would be when the Governor’s decision on Soren’s eligibility as MLA is made public,” a source said.
The ruling alliance has 49 MLAs — 30 from JMM, 18 from Congress and one from RJD. But three Congress MLAs face disqualification after being arrested in West Bengal allegedly with unaccounted money in their vehicle. In their absence on Monday, NCP’s Kamlesh Singh and CPI(ML)’s Vinod Singh voted in the favour of the government.
The trust vote continued despite protests from BJP, which questioned the need for such a move “at a time when important issues such as drought are not being discussed”. BJP MLA from Khunti, Neelkanth Singh Munda, said, “Jharkhand’s people believe that the government is afraid. No one from the Opposition, judiciary or the Governor have asked for a trust vote, then why this fear? It appears that the government does not have any trust in its own MLAs.”
Addressing this criticism in his speech, Soren said: “They (BJP) are asking what is the need for this (trust vote), but the government wants to prove and tell the country and the people of this state that the current UPA government since 2019 has worked hard to tackle Covid-19, and stabilised this state.”
Assembly proceedings begin in Jharkhand. CM Hemant Soren: Opposition has destroyed Democracy mein (tantra khatam ho gaya hai, sirf log bache hain)…Vidhyakon ki kharidne ki baat sirf (BJP) karti hai. Aaj house ke andar apna takaat dikhaayenge. A thread 1/n @IndianExpress
— Abhishek Angad (@abhishekangad) September 5, 2022
Taking a veiled dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said, “We were lucky…that the tough times during the Covid-19 pandemic came during our government… if the same had happened under the BJP’s government, what would have happened to our labourers and poor people of this state…Because their aala kamaan (Supremo) in his speeches says that people wearing slippers will travel by air. Forget air travel, he did not even leave them in the condition to walk on the road.”
Attacking the BJP leadership for taking up the issue of “freebies” for voters, Soren said, “They don’t have the money to give pensions to the state and they say the state governments give freebies. When the loans of select businesses are waived, that is a freebie.”
Referring to his alliance defeating the BJP in the 2019 state polls, Soren accused the party of using Constitutional institutions to trample popular state governments in non-BJP states. “If we start listing the achievements of our government, the ink in the pen will get over,” he said.
Soren also accused the EC of adopting double standards, saying the panel was “silent” on a letter sent by the state government about BJP MLA Samri Lal being “elected on false documents”.
Referring to the EC opinion sent to the Governor on his eligibility as MLA, Soren said, “The ECI says they have sent the letter, and the Governor is quiet.”
Explaining his reason for calling the trust vote, he said attempts have been made to intimidate MLAs and engage in horse trading. “That is why this session has been called. See how strong we are inside the assembly — and outside the assembly… This is Shibu Soren the revolutionary’s son. I will not live in fear.”
He also took on BJP’s Babulal Marandi for criticising his government’s “carelessness” and “minority appeasement politics” following the killing of two girls over the last 10 days. “They way he (Marandi) changes his colour, even a chameleon cannot… It is because of these people that Jharkhand’s condition is such,” he said.
The Chief Minister took up Opposition allegations that one of the two girls who were killed — a 16-year-old who succumbed to injuries following an attack — was ignored while an accused in the Ranchi violence was airlifted for treatment.
“There are many politicians who appear like ghosts wherever there is Hindu-Muslim conflict. Their politicians come in planes and question our government on why a plane was not used for the rescue… I want to ask if they have so much money, why didn’t they fly the victims? In the last 20 years, how many such rescues have they done?…The government does not leave anyone to die: be it the acid attack victim or one person in custody. Even their (BJP) MLAs have been airlifted for treatment,” he said.
Speaking about attempts to “destabilise” his government, the Chief Minister referred to the three Congress MLAs who were held in West Bengal, and hit out at BJP leader and Assam Chief Minister Hemanta Biswa Sarma.
“There are three MLAs in West Bengal…and the onus of horse-trading in Bengal goes to Assam’s Chief Minister Hemant Biswa Sarma. Today the BJP does not help in that investigation…In the North East (Assam-Mizoram border clashes), there was an open revolt. These people…are making states fight among themselves. They want to create a situation of civil war and they want to win the elections… till the time there is a UPA government (in Jharkhand), they (BJP) will never succeed,” Soren said.