What options does Hemant Soren have now?

With Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s future as both head of the state and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MLA hanging in balance amid speculation that the Election Commission has recommended Governor Ramesh Bais to disqualify him for alleged violation of Representation of the People Act, 1951, IANS takes look at the allegations against him and the likely scenarios which may emerge.

In February this year, senior BJP leader and former Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das had alleged that Soren had got a mining lease issued for himself, which was clear violation of the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. It was alleged that Soren hid this fact in his affidavit submitted at the time of contesting the Assembly elections in 2019.

On the basis of documents, Das sought the Chief Minister’s disqualification as MLA and removal from the post of CM.

Since the Chief Minister is a public servant, he cannot allot himself a mining lease, as it is clear violation of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

The BJP leaders sought Soren’s removal as Chief Minister, as well as his disqualification as MLA by Governor Ramesh Bais.

The Governor sought the Election Commission’s views on the matter and subsequently the poll panel began a hearing on the matter and sought views from both Soren and the BJP leaders.

The Election Commission’s hearing ended this month and it now sent its recommendations to the Governor, who now has to take a call in the matter.

In his defence, Soren has said that he had applied for the mining lease at a time when he was not holding any office of profit and he has now even surrendered the lease.

Moreover, no mining activity has been undertaken by him in the mine in question, thus no question of misusing office of profit arises and his disqualification cannot be sought.

Under the present circumstances, two likely scenarios can emerge in the entire episode.

First, the poll panel can recommend Soren’s disqualification as an MLA for getting a mining lease issued for himself.

Second, the Election Commission can consider it as a case of corruption since Hemant Soren took the lease while being on the post of Chief Minister.

If he is found guilty of misusing his position as an MLA, Soren would have to resign as a legislator. In the meantime, the JMM legislative party can elect him as its leader and he can remain as the Chief Minister for six months. Though he will have to contest the polls and get himself re-elected as an MLA during this period.

However, if it is treated as a case of corruption and if the Election Commission issues a certificate under Section 9 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the Governor can bar Soren from contesting elections for five years and he will have to resign both as MLA and Chief Minister.

In such a scenanrio, the JMM will have to elect a new leader, which according to speculation could be either his wife Kalpana Soren or father and JMM founder Shibu Soren.

While Hemant Soren has the option of seeking legal recourse in the Supreme Court, he will still have to resign from his posts as the apex court does not immediately give a stay order in such cases.

Hemant Soren can also plead not guilty, claiming that the grounds on which he is being disqualified are not strong enough, as even the Supreme Court in its two judgements has stated that taking a mining lease is not a case of corruption.

In the third scenario, if the Governor feels that JMM does not have majority in the Assembly and if he refuses to take cognisance of the letters of support for the new chief ministerial candidate and does not allow him or her to take oath, President’s Rule can be imposed in the state to avoid a Constitutional crisis.




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