80 days on, political storm rages over EC’s letter in sealed cover to Jharkhand guv

Jharkhand is stuck in political imbroglio for the past 80 days over the Election Commission’s letter to Governor Ramesh Bais in connection with the office of profit case of Chief Minister Hemant Soren.

The Governor had received the poll panel’s letter on August 25. But till the time, the Governor reveals the content of the letter, political uncertainty over the state will loom.

Let’s understand through a timeline what transpired between the Governor and Chief Minister and what else is expected.

February 10: Former chief minister and national BJP vice-president Raghubar Das, during a press conference, released a statement that Hemant Soren has misused his Chief Minister’s post to get a mining lease sanctioned for him in Ranchi’s Ungada Mouja, Police Station No. 26, Account No. 187, Plot No. 482.

Raghubar Das termed it as a violation of the office of profit and Representation of the People’s Act 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 the Governor at Raj Bhavan and demanded disqualification of Soren from the Assembly and action as per law.

March: Based on BJP’s complaint and documents provided by it, the Governor wrote a letter to EC seeking its opinion whether this matter comes under the ambit of Representation of the People’s Act 1951 Section 9 A and what action can be taken.

April 8: In the light of the Governor’s letter, the EC wrote to chief secretary of the state seeking papers of allottment of mines for Soren.

April 27: Chief Secretary sent 600 page document and reply in connection with the mining lease allotment.

May 2: Election Commission sent a notice to Soren in this connection and sought a reply till May 10.

May 10: Soren sought 10 days time from the EC to reply which was granted.

May 20: Soren sent his reply to the EC though a messenger.

May 31: The EC sought reply from Soren in this connection on May 31. The Chief Minister again sought time, then the poll panel first decided June 14 and then June 28.

June 28: Hearing was done for the first time in the EC. The complainant BJP and its lawyers have termed it as the case of office of profit and demanded action, which was objected to by the lawyers of Soren. The EC posted the hearing for July 14.

July 14, August 8, 12, 18: The EC heard the case on these dates and reserved the verdict.

August 25: The EC sent its opinion to the state governor in a sealed envelope at 10.30 a.m. Bais was in Delhi for his medical treatment. When he returned to the state, the media asked him about the letter to which he said he did not have any information about the poll panel’s letter.

By the evening, media was abuzz that the poll panel had recommended for the disqualification of Soren’s Assembly membership. Many of the BJP leaders also tweeted the same thing.

Soren tweeted, “You will manage to buy constitutional institutions but how will you buy people’s support? Support of the people of the state is my strength… We are ready. Jai Jharkhand.”

August 26: Specualtion began 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 leave the Chief Minister’s post.

Amid uncertainties, meetings of (Mahagathbandhan) were held twice in a day at Chief Minister’s house. However, no official information was provided by the Raj Bhavan on the poll panel’s recommendation.

August 27: On the third day too, no official information was provided by the Raj Bhavan about the Election Commission’s recommendation.

UPA legislators again met at the Chief minister’s house and after that all 40 of them went to a resort in Khunti, 40 kms from Ranchi. They returned to Ranchi later in the day.

August 28: UPA held a meeting at the Chief Minister’s House and after that hit out at the Raj Bhavan and the Central government.

Eleven legislators including three ministers of the Soren government held a press conference and said that the EC and Raj Bhavan should make its decision public. Our alliance has full majority. Despite that, if they have the guts, they should dismiss our government.

August 29: Soren alleged that Central government is busy in toppling more than half governments of the states in the country. Don’t know what will be the country’s future under such circumstances.

Meawhile, Bais attacked the government over deteriorating law and order situation in the state in connection with an incident in Dumka, in which a girl was set on fire after pouring petrol on her. Bais said the people of the state are not feeling safe neither in home, mall, road, nowhere.

August 30: Raj Bhavan kept mum on the EC’s letter. Amid political uncertainty, the legislators were taken to a resort in Raipur. Soren alleged that attempts are being made to poach their legislators.

September 1: A delegation of the JMM and Congress met Bais and requested him to clear the air about the polls pannel’s letter. After coming out of the Raj Bhavan, the UPA leaders said that the Governor has told them that he is consulting with the legal experts on the content of the letter and soon the situation will be clear.

On the other hand, the government held a cabinet meeting in which it was decided that a special assembly session will be convened on September 5 to pass a motion of confidence. On the same day, the legislators during a press conference in Raipur said that the democracy is being mocked at.

Sptember 4: UPA legislators were brought from Raipur to Ranchi to participate in the special session of the assembly. All the legislators were kept in circuit house and government rest house amid tight security.

September 5: In the special session of the Assembly, the state government passed the confidence motion. In the 82-member House, 48 votes were polled in favour of the JMM-Congress, while the BJP and AJSU members walked out of the House.

September 15: Soren met Bais and asked him to clarify the situation on the recommendation of the poll pannel. Soren submitted a memorandum and sought a copy of the letter sent to the EC. Soren’s advocate too wrote to the EC and sought a copy of the letter.

September 23: After a programme in Jharkhand, mediapersons asked Bais when the letter sent by the EC will be opened to which he said that the letter is glued so thick that it is not opening. Soren’s advocate was informed by the EC that he can get the copy of the letter sent to the governor. It is a matter between two constitutional authorities.

October 15: Talking to mediapersons, Soren said if I am guilty, then the EC and governor should award me punishment. He said that if I am guilty then how come I continue to be the chief minister. He alleged that the way the central agencies are working, it feels like they are working on the instructions of some invisible power.

October 26: In an interview to a private TV channel, Bais said that an atom bomb can burst in Jharkhand as cracker ban is imposed in Delhi not in his state. He said that he has sought second opinion from the EC in connection with the office of profit case of Soren. A decision to that effect will be taken after that.

October 31: Soren’s lawyer Vaibhav Gupta wrote a letter to the EC seeking copy of a letter sent by the governor demanding second opinion.

November 7: The EC told Soren and his lawyer that it has not received any message of Governor seeking second opinion.

What’s in store:

Experts say that the Governor has the right to decide when he/she chose to take action on the EC’s recommendation. Amid this, an apprehension remains that if the Governor chooses to disqualify the assembly membership of Soren as per EC recommendation, then Soren will have resign from the Chief Minister’s post.

However, if Soren is not disqualified for contesting election, then even after resignation he can declare himself leader of the UPA alliance and can stake claim for the taking oath for the office of Chief Minister. In such circumstances, the Governor would have to administer the oath of chief minister’s office to Soren. Also, Soren will have to get elected to the legislature within six months of becoming chief minister.

If the governor disqualifies him from contesting election, then another face of the JMM-Congress can become the chief minister.

20221113-164003

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