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Hemant Soren’s MLAs try to dodge ‘poaching’, BJP awaits Governor’s call to make next ‘approach’

Only disqualifying Jharkhand CM will do little, BJP wants him barred from contesting polls, say party leaders

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren with UPA MLAs leaves for Ranchi airport to see the MLAs off, amid speculation of his disqualification as an MLA, in Ranchi, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022. (PTI)

While Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren has sent most of the ruling alliance MLAs to Congress-governed Chhattisgarh to deter a suspected ‘poaching’ attempt by BJP and topple his government, the saffron party is not without its share of hurdles in its purported ‘Mission Jharkhand’ as the Governor waits on the poll panel’s reported recommendation to debar Soren as an MLA.

According to sources, Governor Ramesh Bais is still in the process of consulting legal experts on how to go about the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) reported recommendation against Soren.

BJP leaders admitted that only Soren’s disqualification from the Assembly will not help the party to pursue its mission. “A mere disqualification means the Chief Minister can quit and return to the House by winning a by-election,” a BJP leader pointed out.

The party, this leader said, hopes that Soren will be debarred from contesting elections for a stipulated period with his disqualification.

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Once Bais announces a decision on Soren, sources in BJP said some MLAs from the ruling coalition could break away, leading to the government losing its majority in the 82-member House. In the absence of a restriction on Soren from contesting elections, BJP prefers President’s Rule to be imposed in Jharkhand, sources said.

“The BJP can consider forming an alternative government only if it has the numbers to form it confidently — a thin majority is not the option we want to go ahead,” a source in BJP said.

Sources said the task for BJP, which has been keen on forming an NDA government in Jharkhand, could get more difficult if Babulal Marandi, who merged his Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) with BJP after the party’s two other MLAs — Pradeep Yadav and Bandhu Tirkey — joined the Congress, gets disqualified under the anti-defection law.

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Jharkhand Assembly Speaker Rabindra Nath Mahto has concluded hearing on Marandi’s disqualification petition and has reserved the order. He is scheduled to hear the disqualification matter of Yadav and Tirkey on September 2.

At present, Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha has 30 MLAs in the House — UPA allies Congress has 18 (of whom three were arrested in West Bengal with cash and thereby stand suspended), and RJD, CPI-ML and NCP one each, adding up UPA’s strength in the 82-member House to 48.

The BJP has 26 and its ally AJSU has two legislators. There are five others and Independents. If Marandi is disqualified, which BJP leaders say is likely, NDA’s strength will come down 27.

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Sources said BJP’s experience with smaller parties has not been “so good” in the past, and party leaders apprehend that ECI’s recommendation is silent on prohibiting Soren from contesting elections. “All eyes are thus on the Governor now,” a BJP leader said.

The BJP’s attempts to pull down Soren’s government, which had intensified after he publicly criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2021, have meanwhile faced obstacles from within the party, as there is no unanimity among BJP leaders in Jharkhand over the so-called ‘mission’ in the state, sources said. A section of party leaders have blamed their own leaders for “leaking” the information that led to the arrest of three Congress MLAs, who were caught allegedly with a large amount of cash in West Bengal’s Howrah last month.

There were also differences over who would lead the party’s ‘mission’ in Jharkhand — while Marandi is the choice of one section, another section has voiced support for Neelkanth Singh Munda, a five-term MLA.

First published on: 31-08-2022 at 07:38:09 pm
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