Jharkhand’s ruling JMM-Congress coalition has moved its MLAs to neighbouring Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh after alleged poaching attempts by the BJP. Sources said the MLAs are being lodged at the Mayfair resort in Raipur. Jharkhand is undergoing a political crisis already with the opposition BJP seeking Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s disqualification from the assembly in an office of profit case.
Sources said Mr Soren’s party, the JMM (Jharkhand Mukti Morcha), believes the BJP may take advantage of the crisis and make an attempt to poach MLAs of the ruling coalition to split and overturn the elected government, as happened in several states including Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.
This afternoon, the MLAs left Mr Soren’s residence in two buses and moved to the Ranchi airport, where a chartered flight was on standby. Video footage from the airport showed Mr Soren there too to see them off.
“This is not a surprising move. It happens in politics. We are ready to face any situation,” Chief Minister Hemant Soren was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India after he emerged from the airport.
“This is not something new. Non-BJP governments duly elected in a democratic manner are being destabilised. This is our strategic move to keep our MLAs together,” a Congress spokesperson said.
The rounding-up exercise started on Saturday, when Mr Soren and 43 MLAs were seen moving bag and baggage to Khunti, around 30 km from Ranchi.
Mr Soren is facing disqualification as an MLA after the BJP moved a plea, alleging that he violated election norms by extending a mining lease to himself. The party called for fresh elections and demanded that the Chief Minister resign “on moral grounds”
The Election Commission has held hearings on the issue and submitted its opinion to the Governor. The announcement of the verdict is expected any day now.
The ruling coalition has 49 MLAs in the 81-member Assembly. The JMM, the largest party, has 30 MLAs, the Congress 18 legislators, and Tejashwi Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) one.
The main opposition BJP has 26 MLAs. Minister Mithilesh Thakur had claimed that the ruling coalition has “50 MLAs (including the Speaker, which can go up to 56” while asserting that they had learnt “resort politics” from the BJP.