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Jharkhand Political Crisis: CM Hemant Soren, Ruling MLAs Leave on Three Buses

Sources told PTI that the legislators are being shifted to either West Bengal or Chhattisgarh to prevent poaching attempts by the BJP.
Chief Minister Hemant Soren

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren. Image Courtesy: ANI

Delhi: Amid the deepening political crisis in Jharkhand due to the uncertainty over Chief Minister Hemant Soren's fate as an MLA, Soren and ruling legislators were seen leaving for some unknown destination on three buses, the Press Trust of India reported.

The three buses were occupied by the legislators of the ruling JMM-Congress-RJD coalition and guarded by security personnel.

Sources told PTI that the legislators are being shifted to a "friendly state", which could either be West Bengal or Chhattisgarh, to prevent poaching attempts by the BJP. Both states have non-BJP governments.

The development took place soon after a marathon third round of a meeting of legislators of the ruling alliance at the chief minister's residence to chalk out a strategy to deal with the emerging scenario. The ruling MLAs took part in the meeting along with their luggage.

The Congress Legislative Party (CLP) will have its meeting at 8:30 pm on Saturday. Meanwhile, Alamgir Alam, CLP leader, was quoted by the Times of India as saying: “We are on a picnic, touring locally. The first destination is Latratu. We will return tonight.” Latratu is in Khunti district, around 60 km away from Ranchi. According to the publication, JMM legislators are likely to return tomorrow.

Governor Ramesh Bais is likely to send the order of disqualification of Soren as an MLA to the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday, Raj Bhavan sources told PTI.

"All arrangements to park our coalition legislators in either Chhattisgarh or West Bengal, both run by non-BJP governments, have been made. Three luxury buses have reached Ranchi to transport the MLAs and security personnel by road. There will also be some escort vehicles," a Congress source told PTI.

The source said three locations in Chhattisgarh, including Barmuda and Raipur, and some places in West Bengal have been identified.

"All ruling MLAs will be sent to a single destination if the need arises. All the MLAs have come with their luggage to the CM's house to attend the crucial meeting which is underway," another source said to PTI.

Insiders in the Congress, a crucial ally in the JMM-led ruling coalition, had earlier said that ring-fencing of MLAs by parking them in a resort in a "friendly state" such as West Bengal, Bihar or Chhattisgarh is being considered as an option to prevent legislator poaching by the BJP.

However, they said a decision on the future course of action can be taken once the governor communicates to them the ECI's opinion on the possible disqualification of Soren as an MLA.

Meanwhile, BJP's Godda MP Nishikant Dubey, known for his controversial remarks, tweeted: "According to Jharkhand Mukti Morcha sources, some MLAs reached Chhattisgarh at 2 am. Most of the MLAs are reluctant to go and are waiting for the orders of senior JMM leader Basant Soren. Some buses are parked in Ranchi for MLAs."

The ECI sent its opinion to Bais on August 25 on a plea seeking that Soren be disqualified as an MLA for violating electoral norms by extending a mining lease to himself.

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 an 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".

The ruling coalition has 49 MLAs in the 81-member Assembly. The JMM, the largest party, has 30 MLAs, the Congress 18 legislators, and the RJD one. The main opposition BJP has 26 MLAs in the House.

(With PTI inputs)

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