Jharkhand’s political instability ended on Friday after Champai Soren, younger brother of former Chief Minister Hemant Soren, took oath as the 11th Chief Minister of the state. The development comes just two days after Hemant Soren stepped down as CM following his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case.
Backdrop Of Political Drama
The latest political drama unfolded earlier this week when the ED intensified its investigation into Hemant Soren over alleged illegal mining and misuse of shell companies to launder money. This prompted allies of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-led government to shepherd their MLAs to a hotel in Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh on Tuesday.
However, on Wednesday morning, the legislators were brought back to Ranchi leading to intense speculation that Hemant Soren may step down to make way for his wife Kalpana Soren to take over as CM. But this plan was foiled after Sita Soren, Hemant’s aunt and JMM MLA, openly revolted against any move to appoint Kalpana as CM.
Hours later, Hemant Soren quit as Jharkhand CM after a warrant was issued against him by a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court. He was subsequently arrested by ED officials and taken to Ranchi, bringing an end to political turmoil and uncertainty since last evening.
Allies Throw Weight Behind Champai Soren
Even as Hemant Soren was being questioned by the ED, leaders of the JMM-Congress-RJD coalition in Jharkhand went into a huddle on Wednesday night to decide on their leader in the state Assembly.
After discussions that lasted past midnight, Champai Soren emerged as the consensus candidate to replace his brother as CM. The 59-year old is an 8-time legislator who represents the Chaterpur assembly seat and has served as a minister in previous state governments.
JMM supremo Shibu Soren, Hemant and Champai’s father, is said to have given his nod to pick Champai as the new CM.
On Thursday morning, Champai Soren staked claim before Governor Ramesh Bais to form the government with support from 47 MLAs including those from alliance partners Congress and RJD. However, his plea was turned down citing the uncertainty over Hemant Soren’s status as an MLA.
Hemant Soren continues to represent Barhait assembly seat by virtue of staying CM. But with his formal arrest by the ED now, there is a possibility of his membership being invalidated.
To avoid any confusion, Governor Bais asked for physical verification of MLAs supporting Champai Soren’s leadership claim. Accordingly, 43 legislators of the JMM-led coalition were sequestered at a hotel near Ranchi airport on Friday morning before being ferried to Raj Bhavan.
Their arrival prompted Bais to finally invite Champai Soren as CM in what appeared to be an attempt to avoid horse-trading ahead of next year’s assembly polls.
Oath-Taking Ceremony A Low-Key Affair
In contrast to the pomp and grandeur of his brother’s swearing-in ceremonies, Champai Soren took oath as CM in a simple function at Raj Bhavan attended by alliance partners.
No chief minister or leaders from other states were invited for the occasion keeping in mind the possibility of Hemant Soren approaching the Supreme Court for relief against his arrest.
The new Jharkhand cabinet is also likely to be expanded shortly with berths split between the JMM, Congress and RJD. There is speculation that senior party leaders like Joba Manjhi may be inducted as ministers.
Rocky Road Ahead For Champai Soren
While Champai Soren has restored JMM rule for now, the path ahead is ridden with challenges not just from the BJP but within his own family as well.
Sita Soren has already warned against attempts to prop up “outsiders” – an apparent reference to Champai Soren’s glamourous singer wife Mamta Soren. Her statement indicates the first family may not have completely endorsed Champai’s elevation.
The BJP, which has been lying low since Soren’s arrest, can also be expected to ratchet up the offensive against the new CM. The party will likely raise the heat on illegal mining investigations against the Soren family to keep them on the edge.
Then there is the small matter of bellwether Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections next year when Champai Soren will face his first major electoral test. Failure to lead the coalition to victory over a resurgent BJP could see his tenure cut short.
For now, Champai Soren has some breathing space having outmanoeuvred the political crisis trigerred by his brother’s arrest. But whether he can emerge from his sibling’s shadow and lead JMM to continued electoral success remains to be seen.
Timeline Of Recent Political Developments In Jharkhand
|ED intensifies probe against Hemant Soren over illegal mining, JMM shifts MLAs to Chhattisgarh
|Feb 1, morning
|MLAs brought back to Ranchi, talks held to make Hemant’s wife Kalpana new CM
|Feb 1, afternoon
|Hemant Soren quits as CM hours after court issues arrest warrant against him
|Feb 1, evening
|Hemant Soren arrested by ED, Champai emerges front-runner to be next CM
|Feb 2, morning
|43 MLAs supporting Champai flown to Raj Bhavan, verifies support
|Feb 2, afternoon
|Governor invites Champai Soren to take oath as 11th Jharkhand CM
What Next For Jharkhand?
- Court battle: Hemant Soren approaches Supreme Court against ED arrest, seeks stay from disqualification as MLA
- Cabinet expansion: Berths to be allotted to alliance partners Congress and RJD in Champai Soren cabinet
- By-elections: If HC upholds Hemant’s disqualification, bypolls to be held for 2 seats
- BJP pressure: Central probe agencies to keep heat on illegal mining cases against Soren family
- Electoral test: Champai Soren faces acid test in 2024 Lok Sabha & Jharkhand assembly polls
Family Tree Of The Sorens
Image Credit: Business Standard
The Soren family has dominated Jharkhand’s political landscape for decades through patriarch Shibu Soren who is a three-time CM. His son Hemant took over the reins in 2013 but now faces an uncertain future battling ED cases.
Hemant’s brother Champai is the new CM but unlikely to wield complete authority with elder sister-in-law Sita Soren already expressing her dissent.
Nevertheless, the family remains firmly entrenched in power for now having survived the latest political crisis in the state.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.