Hemant Soren ring-fences MLAs as BJP lurks

Jharkhand chief minister and 44 MLAs leave for picnic amid political crisis

Patna: Amid the ongoing political crisis, Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren accompanied by around 44 MLAs of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-led alliance left for a tourist spot in Khunti near Ranchi, Saturday afternoon.

The decision to move the MLAs was taken during the meetings held at the chief minister’s residence. Mr Soren has so far convened three marathon meetings at his residence to discuss the political scenario that has emerged in the last few days.

After the meeting on Saturday, three luxury buses were arranged by the JMM to take the MLAs for a “picnic” to Latratu dam in Khunti, on the outskirts of Ranchi. Sources said the trip was planned amid speculations of poaching of MLAs by the Opposition BJP.

JMM insiders said, “The trip has been planned to show that there is no trouble and MLAs are united. Nobody is going anywhere. After the trip the MLAs will return in the evening.”

Amid the political development, a meeting of Congress legislators was held in the evening after the MLAs returned to Ranchi. According to sources, “the meeting has been called to discuss future strategies.”

The meeting was presided over by Congress state–in-charge Avinash Pande.

The future of Mr Soren has been hanging in balance ever since the Election Commission reportedly recommended his disqualification as an MLA in a mining lease case.

The ECI had sent its recommendation to Jharkhand governor Ramesh Bais on a plea seeking Mr Soren’s disqualification for violating electoral norms by transferring a mining lease in his name.

However, there has been no official announcement from the governor’s office regarding the issue.

The matter involves a petition filed before the governor by the BJP in February, seeking Mr Soren’s disqualification on grounds that he allegedly transferred a mining lease in his name while he held the mining portfolio.

The JMM said that the party was worried about the state plunging into a constitutional crisis due to "suspense and rumours" about EC’s recommendation and the silence from the governor’s office.

“This whole thing is sending out a wrong message to the people of Jharkhand. We have faith in our Constitution and are ready to face the consequences,” a JMM leader said.

The Jharkhand CM had earlier alleged that the Centre was trying to intimidate him by “using constitutional institutions and agencies”. He said, “I am a son of a tribal and cannot be intimidated by their tricks. There is no place for fear in our DNA.”

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