Shifting ‘Safe Havens’ as Hemant Soren MLAs Made U-turn to Ranchi After Spending Time at Latratu

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Jharkhand Political Crisis LIVE Updates: Amidst a political crisis triggered by an EC ruling on Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s continuance as an MLA, UPA legislators left Ranchi for Latratu, near the border with Chhattisgarh, only to return to the state capital by evening. MLAs of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Congress and the RJD left the state capital in three buses in the afternoon and returned to Ranchi after spending a few hours at Latratu in Khunti district, some 40 kilometres from here.

We had a fun-filled boat ride and picnic, a senior Congress leader claimed. Speculations were earlier rife that they would go to an undisclosed destination in some friendly state with a non-BJP government such as West Bengal or Chhattisgarh as the legislators entered the chief minister’s residence for a meeting with luggage.

Latest updates on the story:

• Soren’s JMM believes that the BJP may make a serious attempt to poach MLAs from it and from the Congress in a bid to topple the government in a manner similar to Maharashtra and there is a need to ringfence the legislators in a safe haven. ‘Resort politics’ is the need of the hour to keep the numbers of the ruling alliance intact, JMM sources had said earlier in the day.

• Following a petition by the BJP seeking Soren’s disqualification from the Assembly in an office of profit case, the Election Commission has sent its decision to state Governor Ramesh Bais on August 25. Though the EC’s decision is not yet made official, there was a buzz that the poll panel has recommended the chief minister’s disqualification as an MLA.

• Raj Bhavan sources said the governor may take a call on the matter on Monday. Congress General Secretary and Jharkhand in-charge Avinash Pandey has arrived here to hold a meeting with party legislators to discuss the situation and plan a strategy.

• Talking to reporters at the Ranchi airport, Pandey lashed out at the BJP: “The way the opponent is trying to destabilise the government is not good for democracy. We will discuss and review the situation and chalk out a strategy.” Over the EC’s report, he said, “No official declaration has been made so far. So, there is no point in talking about this.” He reiterated that there is no threat to the UPA government. Later, the Congress held a meeting and state unit president Rajesh Thakur said the party will firmly stand by the Hemant Soren government.

• As per JMM leaders, a UPA meeting is planned after the Congress’ meeting. Earlier in the day, BJP’s Godda MP Nishikant Dubey 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.” Congress legislator Banna Gupta then said, The BJP MP wanted us to go to Chhattisgarh, so we thought we should at least visit neighbouring district Khunti. As for the stability of the alliance, the ruling government is completely intact.

• The ruling coalition has 49 MLAs in the 81-member Assembly. The BJP 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 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.

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