Champai Soren, veteran leader of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, will take oath today as the next Chief Minister of Jharkhand. The 67-year-old was invited by the Governor to take oath late this evening — more than 24 hours after the arrest of his predecessor Hemant Soren in an alleged money laundering case.
Governor CP Radhakrishnan’s move came hours after Champai Soren met him earlier on Thursday, pleading that he be called to take oath.
“There is no government (in the state) for 18 hours. There is a situation of confusion. Being the constitutional head, we expect you will soon take steps for the formation of a popular government,” read his letter to the Governor.
The delay in the Governor’s decision — coupled with the slim margin in numbers — pushed the ruling alliance to move their MLAs, fearing an Operation Lotus by the opposition BJP.
But the weather played spoilsport. The plane — bound for Congress-ruled Telangana — could not take off and late in the evening, the MLAs were taken to a government guest house in the city.
Shortly after, Champai Soren got a call from the Governor.
The ruling JMM-Congress-RJD alliance of Jharkhand has 47 MLAs in the 81-member house, where the majority mark is 41. Currently 43 MLAs are backing Champai Soren.
The BJP has 25 MLAs and the AJSU, or All Jharkhand Students Union, has three. The remaining seats are divided between the NCP and a Left party (one each) and there are three independent MLAs.
The slim majority has given rise to concern in the ruling alliance. Since before Hemant Soren’s arrest on Wednesday, the leaders have been insisting they have the numbers to form government.
Today, Champai Soren said, “We have submitted the report with 43 MLAs in our support. We expect the number will reach 46-47… so there is no problem. Our ‘gathbandhan’ (alliance), is very strong”.
The Governor was also shown a 49-second roll-call video of the MLAs backing Mr Soren, sources said.
Hemant Soren was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday evening after meeting the Governor and submitting his resignation from the top post. The Enforcement Directorate has alleged that he is involved in a Rs 600-crore land scam and the laundering of its proceeds.