Jharkhand crisis: JMM, Congress MLAs moved to Chhattisgarh amid poaching fears

Uncertainty remains over CM Soren's fate as MLA

UPA MLAs leave for Ranchi airport | PTI

Even as uncertainty remains over Chief Minister Hemant Soren's fate as an MLA, the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-Congress coalition has moved its legislators to neighbouring Chhattisgarh to stave off any possible poaching bid by the opposition BJP. A chartered flight carrying 41 persons, including 32 MLAs, arrived at Raipur airport around 5.30 pm.

The legislators were later taken to the Mayfair resort in Nava Raipur, 10 km away. Chhattisgarh Congress leaders Ramgopal Agrawal and Girish Dewangan also travelled to the resort with the Jharkhand MLAs.

"This is not a surprising move. It happens in politics. We are ready to face any situation," Chief Minister Hemant Soren told reporters at Ranchi airport after seeing off the MLAs.

The legislators had started from Soren's residence in two buses and Soren himself was on the front seat of one of them. He came out of the Birsa Munda Airport staying inside for some time.

Earlier, Soren held a key meeting of the ruling legislators at his residence on Tuesday morning before they left for the airport.

Jharkhand has plunged into a political crisis after the Election Commission, reportedly, recommended the disqualification of Soren in an office-of-profit case.  The commission has sent its opinion to Governor Ramesh Bais on August 25, but the Raj Bhavan is yet to take a decision on it.

The BJP, the petitioner in the case, has sought Soren's disqualification for violating Section 9 (A) of the Representation of the People Act. The chief minister is accused of violating electoral norms by extending a mining lease to himself.

Soren's JMM believes that the BJP may make a serious attempt to poach MLAs from it and from the Congress in a bid to topple the government in a manner similar to Maharashtra and there is a need to ringfence the legislators in a safe haven.

The ruling coalition has 49 MLAs in the 81-member Assembly. The JMM, the largest party, has 30 MLAs, the Congress 18 legislators, and the RJD one. The main opposition BJP has 26 MLAs in the House.