The crisis in Jharkhand – without a chief minister since Hemant Soren’s arrest – intensified on Thursday evening after 43 lawmakers from the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-Congress-Rashtriya Janata Dal alliance were herded onto buses and chased away, announcing the start of a “resort policy”. “.
The MPs were taken to Ranchi’s Birsa Munda airport and put on chartered planes – under the watchful eyes of Champai Soren, the alliance’s chosen chief minister – bound for Congress-ruled Telangana.
However, bad weather meant plans had to be changed. Visual images of the late evening airport showed heavy fog, meaning that the planes, after a brief taxi, were forced to return to the terminal, and the deputies were escorted back to the Circuit House (a house of ‘guests of the government) in the town, about 4 km.
The Jharkhand lawmakers were scheduled to land at Hyderabad’s Begumpet Airport, also called Old Hyderabad Airport, and rooms had been booked at Taj Krishna and other hotels in the city.
“We are going to the airport…you know what kind of people they (BJP) are…they can do anything at any time. A total of 43 MLAs are going…”, Jharkhand Congress chief , Rajesh Thakur had said.
Visuals shared by news agency ANI earlier on Thursday showed a convoy of vehicles, including a luxury bus with MPs inside, greeting journalists, leaving Circuit House.
-ANI (@ANI) February 1, 2024
Hours earlier, Champai Soren, the JMM’s pick to replace Hemant Soren, had met and urged Governor CP Radhakrishnan to invite him to form the next government in the state. “We demanded that the process of forming the new government be started. The governor assured us that it would begin soon.”
“We submitted the report with the support of 43 MPs. We hope that this number will reach 46-47… so there is no problem. Our ‘gathbandhan“, or alliance, is very strong,” added Champai Soren.
Mr. Soren met Mr. Radhakrishnan at his Raj Bhawan residence in Ranchi with five MPs in tow.
Sources said the governor was also shown a 49-second roll call video of all MPs supporting Mr Soren, who is a senior member of the JMM and a seven-time MP.
READ | ‘1,2,3…’: Video shows Jharkhand MPs’ appeal amid uncertainty
The meeting between Champai Soren and the governor followed an emotional call in which Mr Soren, already widely seen as a chief minister in waiting, urged the latter to take immediate action.
“…there will be no government for 18 hours. There is a situation of confusion. As a constitutional leader, we hope that you will soon take steps for the formation of a people’s government…” , he wrote.
READ | “No government for 18 hours”: Champai Soren to Jharkhand governor
Jharkhand political crisis: the numbers game
The Jharkhand Assembly has 81 members, which means the majority is 41.
The JMM-Congress-RJD alliance has 47 MLAs, of which 29 are from Mr. Soren’s party and 17 are from the Congress. Former Bihar chief minister Lalu Yadav’s RJD has one.
The BJP has 25 MLAs and the AJSU, or All Jharkhand Students Union, has three. The remaining seats are divided between the PCN and a left-wing party (one each) and there are three independent deputies.
If the 43 MPs currently supporting Champai Soren remain committed to their man, the former transport minister will, at least on the basis of the numbers, be asked to form the new government.
However, if a single lawmaker falters, it will open the door for the BJP to capture an opposition-ruled state just months before the Lok Sabha elections.
The saffron party, however, will need at least 15 more legislators to support it. Three of these 15 could be independent legislators and three others could be from AJSU. The other nine will have to be poached from the Congress, the JMM or the RJD, a scenario which could explain the sequestration of the deputies.
Hemant Soren arrested
Champai Soren was chosen as JMM legislative party leader last night; this was after Hemant Soren resigned and was arrested by the central agency.
Earlier today, a special court in Ranchi sent Hemant Soren to judicial custody for a nominal period of one day. Indeed, Mr. Soren has already asked the Supreme Court to challenge his arrest.
READ | Hemant Soren jailed for a day, investigate agency’s custody decision tomorrow
He also called his arrest “illegal and without jurisdiction”; Mr. Soren has already filed a complaint against senior officers of the investigating agency under the Scheduled Castes/Tribes Act.
A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud agreed to hear the plea on Friday at 2 p.m.
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