JMM-Congress government in Jharkhand faces crisis as noose tightens around Chief Minister Hemant Soren
Jharkhand has been plunged into a deep political crisis, with Chief Minister Hemant Soren facing serious charges of corruption and wrongdoing. The ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-Congress-RJD alliance is bracing for the likely disqualification of Soren as an MP and the resulting maneuvers for power among allies and lobbies within the JMM.
Hemant Soren, who is also the current chairman of JMM, had a few years ago secured a mining lease on 0.88 acres of land in the Angara block of Ranchi. It applied for environmental clearance on September 9 last year, and clearance was granted by the National Environmental Impact Assessment Authority on September 18.
The chief minister holds both the mining and environment portfolios, and the BJP was quick to accuse him of corruption and abuse of power. Although Soren secured the cancellation of the mining lease issued to him once his predecessor and BJP National Deputy Chairman Raghubar Das sought his disqualification as an MP, the damage was done.
The BJP complained to Jharkhand Governor Ramesh Bais who sought the opinion of the Election Commission of India under Article 192 of the Constitution on whether Soren could be disqualified from the post. ‘State Assembly. ECI had requested and received authenticated documents regarding the mining lease from the state government.
The ECI will now take an appeal to grant Soren an opportunity to be heard in the case, as requested by JMM and its ally, Congress. The ECI, we learn, is examining whether the granting of a mining permit and the hasty environmental clearance granted to it constitute an offense under the Prevention of Corruption Act and lead to its disqualification as a member of the State Assembly.
Legal experts said swarajya it is very clear that Soren held a for-profit position (as a tenant of government property to conduct a for-profit business) while being an MP and this is a serious violation of existing rules and standards. Therefore, his disqualification is quite likely.
A Jharkhand High Court bench consisting of Chief Justice Ravi Ranjan and Justice Sujit Narayan Prasad, hearing a petition on the matter earlier this month, took a dim view of the abuse of Soren’s alleged power and called it a “serious matter”. The High Court has served notice on Soren and the state government and, say legal experts, if it does not get a satisfactory response, it can also order an independent inquiry. Additionally, central agencies like the ED and SFIO are planning an investigation into Soren’s mining lease.
“Hemant Soren has engaged in corrupt practices and abused his office to bestow favors on his relatives and loved ones since he took office in December 2019. Grant mining lease and contracts to members of the family amounts to a conflict of interest and a criminal function under the Prevention of Corruption Act,” said Raghubar Das swarajya.
This controversy over mining leases is not the only one that has shaken Hemant Soren. In January this year, Das revealed another case involving Hemant Soren’s younger brother and MP Dumka Basant Soren. According to Das, Basant Soren operated a company – Grand Mining Company Pvt Ltd – in Santhal Parganas and illegally exported stone chips to Bangladesh, thereby causing a loss of Rs 8 crore to the state.
“Illegal coal, stone and sand mining is carried out by the mafia in the tribal heartland of Santhal Parganas under the patronage of Basant Soren,” Das said. “Hemant Soren did not deliberately auction sand ghats for mining over the past two years to facilitate illegal sand extraction. My government had requested letters of intent for this sand mining and even pre-screened some companies through a transparent process, but this government suspended that process to allow illegal sand mining,” the official said. former chief minister. swarajya.
The BJP also alleged, and produced documents in support of its charges, that the chief minister’s media adviser, Abhishek Prasad, obtained a stone mining lease on an 11.7-acre plot in the village of Pakariya of Sahibganj district in April 2021. A similar stone mining lease was also handed over last year to CM Assembly Representative Pankaj Mishra.
Earlier this week, another scandal hit Hemant Soren when Raghubar Das revealed that the state Department of Industry (which Soren also heads) had allocated 11 acres of land in an industrial cluster in the capital of state to a private company – Sohrai Live Pvt Ltd — which is owned by Hemant Soren’s wife, Kalpana Soren.
“The government has promised to provide industrial plots for tribal youths. But only the chief minister’s wife was given an 11-acre piece of land in the Barhe Industrial Park for a meat processing unit. Soren breached the rules of Section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act which prohibits a Chief Minister or a serving Minister, or any of his family members, from obtaining a government lease or contract,” Das said.
The center is likely to order investigations by its agencies into these allegations as well. Das is confident that Soren will be found guilty, and his days as the state’s chief minister are numbered.
The JMM is, of course, very shaken. The party dismissed the charges against Soren and said no offense was committed. JMM spokesperson Supriyo Bhattacharya accused the BJP of making false allegations “to create an opportunity for central agencies to intervene and destabilize the government”.
Congress also sided with Soren and dismissed the charges against him. A congressional spokesman said Soren committed no wrongdoing and the mining lease in his name was canceled as soon as allegations were raised. He also said the chief minister’s family members were free to pursue their own business ventures.
But this is only bravado and the nervousness of the JMM is evident. Governor Ramesh Bais’ meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi on Wednesday April 27 to brief them on the “political situation” in the state has clearly shaken the JMM.
Party insiders said swarajya that the disqualification of Hemant Soren would destabilize the government and that the process of finding his successor would create deep fissures within the party. Although Hemant Soren’s brother Basant, who is also an MP, is the leading contender for the top job, he is a novice in politics and a first MP with no administrative experience.
Moreover, a number of JMM veterans, contemporaries of party founder Shibu Soren, will not take neophyte Basant Soren’s elevation to CM position very well. A few senior JMM leaders and ministers see themselves as legitimate contenders for the post and will oppose the elevation of Basant.
This will trigger infighting within the JMM and allow the BJP to fish in troubled waters. Both JMM and Congress fear that a fractious JMM will give the BJP a golden opportunity to create more divisiveness and even cause a split within the JMM. The chances that the JMM-Congrès-RJD government will collapse if the Prime Minister is disqualified are quite high, say political observers.
And that’s why the JMM is nervous. Party patriarch Shibu Soren, who is over 78, is ill and unable to hold the party together in case Hemant Soren has to resign from office. The group will then become rudderless and find themselves embroiled in intense in-fighting.
Political observers say many JMM alumni were unhappy with the anointing of Hemant Soren by his father (commonly known as Guruji). They have long felt that many senior leaders have not been adequately rewarded for their sacrifices and contributions. These leaders have been angered by dynastic politics and will not accept Basant Soren becoming the CM.
Read also : Revealed: How Jharkhand’s Hemant Soren government mocks seditious activities in the state