Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, facing threat of being “disqualified” as an MLA, has called a strategy meeting with his MLAs today – his third meeting in two days – as the Governor studies the recommendations put forth by the Election Commission.
Mr Soren called the meeting this morning, a day after he met the MLAs twice at his official residence in Ranchi, amid speculation that he might be disqualified from the state assembly over a mining lease contract.
While holding Chief Minister Hemant Soren guilty in the illegal mining case, the Election Commission, sources told NDTV, has recommended only “disqualification”.
This means that though Mr Soren will have to resign after the Governor notifies the disqualification order on a gazette, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader can get re-elected in a by-election that has to be held within six months.
“I am not greedy for positions,” Mr Soren tweeted on Friday after reports of the action, “But we need to hold constitutional posts to be able to use the system for public welfare.” In another tweet, in Hindi, he said, “Since our opponents are unable to match us politically, they are misusing constitutional institutions. But we are not worried… It’s the people who gave us the chair… Do what you can; my work for my people can never stop.”
The Congress, which is part of the ruling government, has said that it will back Mr Soren as the consensus candidate.
“Our coalition is standing strong. We will back Hemant Soren as the Chief Minister,” Alamgir Alam, Congress MLA, said.
Saryu Roy, a senior leader in Jharkhand, said Mr Soren should not be the consensus candidate for Chief Minister once he resigns from the post. “Morally, he should not be made Chief Minister after he quits the post after his disqualification. It will be good for his future,” he said.
The poll panel has opined Mr Soren attracts disqualification for awarding a mining contract to himself, sources said.
Governor Ramesh Bais is examining EC opinion on Mr Soren’s disqualification and will notify it soon, the sources said, adding that Mr Soren is not barred from contesting elections. Mr Soren is reportedly in consultation with constitutional experts on the future course of action.
The BJP has already called for fresh elections and asked the Chief Minister to resign “on moral grounds”. “Hemant Soren should head towards mid-term polls, on moral grounds,” BJP MP Nishikant Dubey has said.
The ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), as part of the UPA alliance, is however confident that Mr Soren will remain as the Chief Minister till 2024.
In the 82-member assembly, the JMM (30) and Congress (17) have 47 members – just above the majority mark – besides support from some others. The BJP is the main Opposition with 25 members, as per the Vidhan Sabha website.