The Election Commission of India (ECI) has sent its opinion on the disqualification matter pertaining to Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) MLA Basant Soren to Jharkhand’s Governor Ramesh Bais. Basant is the younger brother of Jharkhand’s Chief Minister Hemant Soren.
The chief election authority had concluded its hearings on August 29 after receiving it from Bais, and the Governor had received the EC’s opinion on Friday evening, The Indian Express reported, citing sources.
This development comes in the backdrop of speculations of EC recommending CM Soren’s disqualification under Section 9A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 — which prohibits elected representatives from entering into any contract with the government for “supply of goods” or “execution of any works undertaken” — for allegedly misusing position to allot a mining lease to himself.
The Governor had sought the ECI’s views after state BJP members filed a complaint seeking Basant Soren’s disqualification from the state Assembly under Section 9A for allegedly co-owning a mining firm and not disclosing it in the election affidavit.
Meanwhile, Basant Soren, MLA from Dumka, had courted controversy on Friday by allegedly saying he was in Delhi to buy innerwear. A purported video showing him was circulated on social media in which the younger Soren explained his absence from Jharkhand.
The state is in a political crisis as the CM still faces the threat of disqualification on the basis of a purported ECI advisory to the governor. However, Bais has not officially apprised the state government of the EC’s view of whether or not Hemant Soren would be disqualified as an MLA.
If disqualified, Soren may still be able to contest the bye-election within six months and till then can continue to be CM. If he wins the by-poll and his party nominates him as the leader, he can remain as the CM of the state. However, if he is disqualified as MLA and even barred from contesting elections, it would be difficult for Soren to continue as CM.
However, in his defence, the Jharkhand CM had argued that holding a mining lease was out of the purview of the office of profit rules.
He said that the lease was originally granted to him for 10 years on May 17, 2008, when he was not the CM, but the application had lapsed.
The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) party-led by CM Soren has alleged poaching attempts by the BJP, and had taken 32 MLAs from Ranchi to Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh’s Raipur on August 30.
Meanwhile, on September 1, an eight-member delegation from the JMM-led ruling coalition in the state had met Governor Bais stating that “purported selective leaks from your (the Governor’s) office” on the issue have led to a “state of chaos, confusion and uncertainty, which vitiates the administration and the governance of the state”.
“This also encourages political brinkmanship to destabilise the democratically elected government headed by CM Soren by illegal means. Although Your Excellency is yet to declare the EC opinion, which is given in confidence to you…BJP has made public the opinion and demanded resignation of the CM, mid-term polls. As you are undoubtedly aware, disqualification, if any, of the CM will not have any effect on the government as the JMM-INC-RJD-Independents coalition will still enjoy an overwhelming majority,” the memorandum had stated.