Tuesday, March 5, 2024

EC concludes hearing: Jharkhand CM’s fate sealed

Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren

Jharkhand Chief Minister and JMM leader Hemant Soren’s fate was sealed as the Election Commission of India concluded the hearing in the mine lease case. 

Trouble mounted for Soren after a BJP delegation met the Jharkhand Governor in February seeking his removal under Section 9A of the Representation of the People Act. This clause deals with disqualification for government contracts. 

BJP accused Soren of misusing his official position as the Mining and Environment Minister to get a stone mining lease in the Angara block of Ranchi district in 2021.

After the Governor sought the opinion of the EC as per Article 192 of the Constitution, the latter issued a notice to Soren seeking an explanation on why action shouldn’t be taken against him. This article mandates the Governor to take a decision on whether a member of the House of the Legislature has become liable for disqualification based on the EC’s opinion. During the hearing, the Jharkhand CM’s team argued that the provisions in the election law, which he has been accused of violating, do not apply in this case. 

While Soren’s legal team finished its arguments before the EC on August 12, BJP gave a rejoinder. On August 18, both sides submitted their written submissions to the poll body. As per sources, the EC is likely to send its opinion on whether the JMM leader should be disqualified to Jharkhand Governor Ramesh Bais within the next fortnight. 

Earlier on August 20, Soren chaired a meeting of the legislators belonging to the ruling coalition to discuss the strategy in case the verdict is not in his favour. 

The 2019 Jharkhand Assembly election was conducted in 5 phases. While the polls commenced on November 30, the other phases of voting took place on December 7, 12, 16, and 20. The approximate voter turnout for all 81 assembly constituencies of Jharkhand was 65.17%. The BJP-AJSU alliance was seeking re-election after winning 42 out of 81 seats in the 2014 Jharkhand Assembly elections. However, the opposition alliance comprising Congress, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, and Rashtriya Janata Dal secured 47 seats, which is more than the halfway mark in the Jharkhand Assembly with a combined vote share of 35.35%.

On the other hand, the incumbent BJP won from only 25 constituencies with a vote share of 33.37%. In the eventuality that BJP and AJSU contested the elections together, the JMM-led alliance would have lost 13 seats. At present, BJP and its allies have 30 seats in the Assembly whereas the ruling coalition has the support of 48 MLAs. 

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