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Jharkhand: EC Set to Disqualify CM Hemant Soren as MLA, Say Sources

“Evil designs of BJP, says JMM, adding that it will move the Supreme Court if Soren is disqualified as an MLA.
Hemant Soren

Representational use only.Image Courtesy: ANI

Ranchi: The Election Commission of India has told Jharkhand Governor Ramesh Bais that Chief Minister Hemant Soren should be disqualified as an MLA for violating electoral norms, Raj Bhavan sources said.

However, the Raj Bhavan has officially not confirmed the development.

The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the largest party in the Assembly with 30 MLAs, as part of the United Progressive Alliance alliance, exuded confidence that Soren will remain the chief minister till 2024, completing his term.

It also said the party will move the Supreme Court if Soren is disqualified as an MLA.

Bais told mediapersons on Thursday that he will be in a position to comment on the issue once he takes stock of developments.

"I was in AIIMS, Delhi for two days. I will be in a position to tell about any such decision when I reach Raj Bhavan," he said. Since then, he has not communicated to the media on the issue.

The Election Commission sent its opinion to Bais earlier this morning on a plea seeking that Soren be disqualified as an MLA for violating electoral norms by extending a mining lease to himself.

The opinion was sent to the Jharkhand Raj Bhavan in a sealed cover.

The BJP, the petitioner in the case, has sought Soren's disqualification for violating Section 9(A) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which deals with disqualification for government contracts.

The clause states that "a person shall be disqualified if, and for so long as, there subsists a contract entered into by him in the course of his trade or business with the appropriate Government for the supply of goods to, or for the execution of any works undertaken by, that Government."

The issue was referred to the governor and by him to the EC, as Article 192 of the Constitution states that on rulings regarding a MLA's disqualification, the question shall be referred to the governor who in turn "shall obtain the opinion of the Election Commission and shall act according to such opinion”.

Earlier in the day, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey’s tweet that "the Election Commission letter has reached the governor… I had announced that it will be done within August" attracted objections from the Chief Minister's Secretariat, JMM and Congress.

Soren alleged blatant misuse of constitutional authorities and public agencies, after reports claimed that the Election Commission recommended his disqualification as an MLA in the mining lease case.

'No communication in this regard has been received by the Chief Minister's Office" from either the Election Commission or Governor Ramesh Bais, his secretariat said.

"It seems that BJP leaders including a BJP MP and his puppet journalists have themselves drafted the EC report, which is otherwise always given in a sealed cover," Soren said in a statement issued by his secretariat.

"This blatant misuse of constitutional authorities and public agencies and its complete takeover by BJP HQ in Deendayal Upadhyay Marg in this shameful manner is unseen in Indian Democracy," he said.

The chief minister is apprised of several media reports about EC sending a report to the governor "apparently recommending his disqualification as a MLA", his office said.    

The UPA alliance has 49 MLAs in the 81-member assembly. Within the United Progressive Alliance, JMM as the largest party has 30 MLAs, the Congress 18 legislators, and the RJD one. The main opposition BJP has 26 MLAs in the House.

The coalition partners, meanwhile, claimed that there was no threat to the government.

JMM chief spokesperson Supriyo Bhattacharya asserted that Soren will complete his full term and fulfil all promises made to the people.

Asked about the probability of Soren being disqualified as an MLA, Bhattacharya said the party will take recourse to law in any such eventuality.

"Options are open to us. We will move the Supreme Court," he told PTI.

JMM sources said the baton could be passed to Kalpana Soren, wife of the chief minister, in case Soren is debarred from contesting elections.

Congress leader and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Alamgir Alam said: "Even in the probability of Soren, who is also the JMM executive president, being disqualified from Assembly in an office of profit case, there is no threat to the government,”

"It is a policy matter. Our government will continue. Hemant Soren continues to be our leader," he added.

Bhattacharya also claimed that attempts have been made to destabilise a democratically elected government ever since it came to power in December 2019.

 “But, all such evil designs of the BJP would be thwarted,” he said.

"We are ready to accept any political challenge from the BJP. We taught them lessons in the 2019 assembly polls and four by-elections in Jharkhand. The public support is with us," Bhattacharya said. 

Commenting on the legalities, Jharkhand High Court advocate Hemant Kumar Shikarwar said if Soren is pronounced guilty of holding an office of profit while being a representative of the people, he will have to step down from the office of the CM.

Soren will also lose his membership in the assembly, he said.

Shikarwar, also a member of the Jharkhand State Bar Council, said, "Since the JMM is a party with the highest number of legislators leading the assembly, it will still have the choice of electing another member to hold the office of the chief minister."

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