By Shambhu Nath Chaudhary
Ranchi, November 13 (IANS): Jharkhand has been stuck in a political imbroglio for 80 days because of the Election Commission’s letter to Governor Ramesh Bais regarding the case of Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s profit office.
The governor had received the letter from the voting committee on August 25. But until the governor reveals the contents of the letter, political uncertainty over the state will hover.
Let’s understand through a timeline what happened between the Governor and the Chief Minister and what else is expected.
Feb 10: Former BJP Chief Minister and National Vice Chairman Raghubar Das in a press conference issued a statement that Hemant Soren abused his position as Chief Minister to obtain a sanctioned mining lease for him in the Ungada Mouja de Ranchi, police station No. 26, account No. 187, lot No. 482.
Raghubar Das called it a violation of the Office of Profit and Representation of People’s Law and demanded action against Soren.
February 11: A delegation led by two former chief ministers of Jharkhand – Raghubar Das and Babulal Marandi – submitted a memorandum to Governor Raj Bhavan and demanded Soren’s disqualification from the Assembly and action according to law.
March: Based on BJP’s complaint and documents provided by BJP, Governor wrote a letter to the EC asking for their opinion on whether this case falls within the scope of the article 9 A of the Representation of the People Act 1951 and what action can be taken.
April 8: In light of the Governor’s letter, the EC writes to the Secretary General of the State requesting mine allocation papers for Soren.
April 27: The Chief Secretary sent a 600-page document and response regarding the award of the mining lease.
May 2: The election commission sent a notice to Soren in this regard and asked for a response until May 10.
May 10: Soren requested 10 days from the EC to respond, which he was granted.
May 20: Soren sends his response to the EC by courier.
May 31: The EC requested a response from Soren in this regard on May 31. The Chief Minister again asked for time, then the voting committee decided first on June 14 and then on June 28.
June 28: The hearing takes place for the first time at the EC. Plaintiff BJP and his attorneys called it a for-profit office case and demanded action, which Soren’s attorneys opposed. The EC posted the July 14 hearing.
July 14, August 8, 12, 18: The EC hears the case on these dates and reserves the verdict.
August 25: EC sends advice to state governor under seal at 10:30 am Bais is in Delhi for medical treatment. When he returned to the state, the media asked him about the letter to which he said he had no information about the letter from the polling committee.
In the evening, the media was abuzz as the polling panel had recommended Soren’s disqualification from Assembly membership. Many BJP leaders also tweeted the same.
Soren tweeted, “You will manage to buy constitutional institutions, but how are you going to buy the support of the people? The support of the people of the state is my strength… We are ready. Jai Jharkhand.”
August 26: Speculation has begun that if the governor acts on the recommendation of the EC, then Soren’s assembly membership will be disqualified after which he will have to step down as chief minister.
Amid the uncertainties, (Mahagathbandhan) meetings were held twice a day at the chief minister’s house. However, no official information was provided by the Raj Bhavan on the recommendation of the jury.
August 27: Also on the third day, no official information was provided by the Raj Bhavan on the recommendation of the Electoral Commission.
The UPA lawmakers again met at the Chief Minister’s house and after that all 40 went to a resort town of Khunti, 40 km from Ranchi. They returned to Ranchi later that day.
August 28: The UPA held a meeting at the chief minister’s house and then struck at the Raj Bhavan and the central government.
Eleven lawmakers, including three ministers from the Soren government, held a press conference and said the EC and Raj Bhavan should make its decision public. Our alliance has a full majority. Despite this, if they have the courage, they should overthrow our government.
August 29: Soren alleged that the central government is busy overthrowing more than half of the country’s state governments. I don’t know what the future of the country will be under such circumstances.
Meanwhile, Bais attacked the government for the deteriorating law and order situation in the state in relation to an incident in Dumka, in which a girl was set on fire after gasoline was poured on her. Bais said people in the state don’t feel safe at home, in the mall, on the road, or anywhere.
August 30: Raj Bhavan remains silent on the EC letter. Amid the political uncertainty, lawmakers were whisked away to a resort town in Raipur. Soren alleged that attempts were being made to poach their lawmakers.
September 1: A delegation from JMM and Congress met with Bais and asked him to clarify things about the letter from the polls committee. After walking out of the Raj Bhavan, the UPA leaders said the governor told them he was consulting the legal experts on the content of the letter and soon the situation would be clear.
On the other hand, the government held a cabinet meeting during which it was decided that a special assembly session would be convened on September 5 to pass a motion of confidence. On the same day, lawmakers at a press conference in Raipur said that democracy is being laughed at.
September 4: UPA lawmakers were brought from Raipur to Ranchi to attend the extraordinary session of the assembly. All lawmakers were kept in the circuit house and the government rest house under a strict security environment.
September 5: During the extraordinary session of the Assembly, the state government adopts the motion of confidence. In the 82-member House, 48 votes were cast in favor of JMM-Congress, while BJP and AJSU members left the House.
September 15: Soren meets Bais and asks him to clarify the situation on the recommendation of the polling station. Soren submitted a memorandum and requested a copy of the letter sent to the EC. Soren’s lawyer also wrote to the EC and requested a copy of the letter.
September 23: After a broadcast in Jharkhand, journalists asked Bais when the letter sent by the EC would be opened, to which he replied that the letter was so stuck that it would not open. Soren’s attorney has been advised by the EC that he can obtain the copy of the letter sent to the governor. This is a matter between two constitutional authorities.
October 15: Speaking to the media, Soren said that if I was guilty, the EC and the governor should grant me a sanction. He said if I am guilty then how come I continue to be the chief minister. He alleged that the way central agencies operate, it feels like they are working on instructions from an invisible power.
October 26: In an interview with a private TV channel, Bais said that an atomic bomb may explode in Jharkhand because the ban on crackers is imposed in Delhi and not in his state. He said he had sought a second opinion from the EC in connection with the Soren profit office case. A decision to this effect will be made later.
October 31: Soren’s attorney, Vaibhav Gupta, wrote a letter to the EC requesting a copy of a letter sent by the governor requesting a second opinion.
November 7: The EC told Soren and his lawyer that they had not received any message from the Governor seeking a second opinion.
What’s in store:
Experts say the Governor has the right to decide when he/she chooses to act on the EC recommendation. Amidst this, a fear remains that if the governor chooses to disqualify Soren’s assembly membership as per the recommendation of the EC, then Soren will have to step down as chief minister.
However, if Soren is not disqualified from running for office, then even after his resignation, he can declare himself the leader of the UPA alliance and claim the swearing in for the post of chief minister. In such circumstances, the governor should administer the oath of the chief minister’s office in Soren. Additionally, Soren must be elected to the Legislative Assembly within six months of his appointment as Chief Minister.
If the governor disqualifies him from running for office, another JMM-Congress face can become chief minister.