Champai Soren sworn in as Jharkhand CM; Hemant in 5-day custody | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Champai Soren sworn in as Jharkhand CM; Hemant in 5-day custody

By, Ranchi
Feb 02, 2024 11:59 PM IST

Champai Soren is sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Jharkhand, following the arrest of his predecessor Hemant Soren on money laundering charges.

Champai Soren became the seventh person to take oath as Jharkhand’s chief minister on Friday, resolving for now the instability roiling the state after the dramatic arrest of his predecessor Hemant Soren over money laundering allegations two days ago.

JMM leader Champai Soren takes oath as Jharkhand chief minister in Ranchi on Friday. (ANI)
JMM leader Champai Soren takes oath as Jharkhand chief minister in Ranchi on Friday. (ANI)

Champai Soren, the 67-year-old minister who was elected leader of Jharkhand’s ruling coalition hours before Hemant Soren’s arrest, was sworn in alongside two other members — Alamgir Alam from the Congress and Satyanand Bhokta from the Rashtriya Janata Dal — even as the alliance shifted 35 legislators to Hyderabad, the capital of Congress-ruled Telangana.

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“We will take forward welfare schemes launched by Hemant Soren. I am committed to the development of Jharkhand, We will continue the fight for jal, jungle, jameen (water, forest, land),” he said, referring to a slogan made famous by tribal icon Komaram Bheem.

Champai Soren’s swearing-in caps a dramatic 48 hours in Ranchi that began with the arrest of Hemant Soren by the Enforcement Directorate at 10pm on Wednesday, minutes after his resignation. In a letter addressed to his party’s legislators before his arrest, Hemant Soren confirmed transport minister Champai Soren as the new legislature party leader.

Read here: Who is ‘tiger’ Champai Soren, Shibu Soren aide and Jharkhand's new chief minister?

Champai Soren and his backers met governor CP Radhakrishnan twice over two days, furnishing letters of support from 43 legislators in an 81-member assembly, with one seat lying vacant. Finally, around 11pm on Thursday, the governor invited Champai Soren to form the government and gave him 10 days to prove his majority on the floor of the House.

The oath-taking ceremony took place on a day a Ranchi court remanded Hemant Soren to five days in ED custody. But the agency couldn’t take Soren into custody after Jharkhand advocate general Rajeev Ranjan moved a second petition, asking for the former CM to spend the night away from the ED office in Ranchi because of safety concerns.

The court is set to pronounce judgment on this aspect on Saturday, after which the remand period will begin. Advocate Pradeep Chandra, one of the advocates representing Soren, said, “The court while granting five day ED remand also granted permission to allow my client to meet his advocate and family members.”

Chandra said that the second petition was necessitated because there was a threat perception against the former CM, and the ED did not have a “regular force of its own”.

“It depends on other agencies while the state has sufficient arrangements for security at its police stations and other places,” Chandra said. Soren remains at Ranchi central jail.

Assistant solicitor general Anil Kumar, who appeared for ED, said that the law had no provisions for part custody and it was the ED’s duty to provide security to people in their custody.

In the assembly, the ruling alliance appears comfortably placed.

In the 81-member assembly, the coalition that includes the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Congress, the RJD and the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) has 48 seats while the National Democratic Alliance has 32, of which the BJP holds 26. One seat is vacant.

But Champai Soren isn’t taking any chances.

An hour after the swearing-in ceremony, he held his first cabinet meeting, after which 35 lawmakers were sent to Hyderabad. “The BJP’s khela (game) is still on. So we have shifted them to deflate any such attempts. They will return at the earliest,” JMM general secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya said.

In the cabinet meeting, three decisions were taken — the reappointment of Rajiv Ranjan as advocate general, the cancellation of the budget session originally scheduled for February 9 and 29, and a special session of the assembly on February 5 and 6.

A JMM legislator said that the alliance would seek a floor test in the special session. “Though the governor has given us 10 days, the government will seek the confidence in the House during that session itself,” the JMM legislator said, requesting anonymity.

The ruling alliance says it has the support of 47 lawmakers, though there are 43 signatures on the letter of support sent to Radhakrishnan. Those who have not signed are JMM lawmakers Chamra Linda and Lobin Hembrom (both have made statements against the government in recent months), speaker Rabindranath Mahato, JMM leader Ramdas Soren who is in hospital, and Sita Soren, who is Hemant Soren’s sister-in-law.

A JMM leader said that legislators in Hyderabad will likely return on Sunday night before the floor test on Tuesday or Wednesday. “The idea is to have a cabinet expansion after proving our majority because there are several claimants to ministerial berths, especially in the Congress camp. If the entire cabinet was sworn in today, it could have triggered discontent, and given the Opposition an opportunity to cash in,” this leader said, requesting anonymity.

“We will continue with development schemes for the poor, farmers and the marginalised both in rural and urban area which will show a mirror to the Opposition which attempted to destabilise our government,” Champai Soren said.

The BJP, however, said that the lawmakers being shifted out of state betrayed the government’s lack of faith in their own constituents.

“I congratulate the new CM and the government. It is surprising that the governor invited them to form the government, but they seem to be running from one place to another. This is because their own MLAs do not trust each other. I wonder what they will do during the trust vote,” said Biranchi Narayan, BJP’s chief whip in the assembly.

Hemant Soren was arrested under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in connection with ED’s probe into an alleged land scam in the state. ED says it has evidence that Hemant Soren is a key beneficiary in alleged land related irregularities in Ranchi, where a network of brokers and businessmen were allegedly working over the years to create fake deeds of landed parcels by forging records in the registrar offices and further selling them off.

Hemant Soren, who is the third Jharkhand CM to be arrested after his father Shibu Soren and Madhu Koda, dismissed the charges as politically motivated and said details of his assets are public.

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