The MLAs of the ruling UPA coalition in Jharkhand on August 30 arrived in Raipur by a chartered flight to thwart the BJP’s alleged poaching attempt amid the ongoing political crisis in their State.
The flight carrying about 40 MLAs took off from the Ranchi airport shortly after 4.30 p.m. and arrived at Swami Vivekananda Airport in Raipur, the capital of the Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh, around 5:30 p.m.
Two buses were arranged at the airport to take the MLAs to a resort in Nava Raipur, said a local Congress leader.
The leader did not confirm the number of MLAs who reached Raipur but said Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren was not accompanying them.
Earlier, with a political crisis brewing in Jharkhand, the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) MLAs flew off to Raipur in Chhattisgarh, apparently to keep their flock together. As many as 31 legislators were said to catch the charter flight to Raipur for their stay in a resort for next two days.
Chief Minister Hemant Soren accompanied the MLAs to the Birsa Munda airport in Ranchi but once their flight took off, he returned to his official residence. Some Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MLAs and ministers are also said to be put in Ranchi to tackle the impending political situation in the State. However, all four ministers from ally Congress party took the flight from Ranchi to Raipur.
After waving the UPA MLAs at Ranchi airport Mr. Soren told media persons that the “ruling coalition is totally prepared to respond to the conspirators in the State”.
“Nothing untoward is going to happen but the ruling coalition is ready to face any situation. We’re preparing a strategy to tackle it and you’ve seen a glimpse of that very strategy today. In future too you’ll be seeing all this,” he said.
When asked when he would go to join the MLAs, he said, “will see” and left the air-port for his official residence.
Earlier, it was said that as many as 39 UPA MLAs were taking the flight to Raipur but later, sources in the JMM said 31 legislators were in the chartered flight. Though no MLA or party leader could disclose where they were heading, reliable sources in the government told The Hindu over the phone from Ranchi that they were heading for a resort, some 10-12 kilometres away from Raipur airport for two days. It is also said that security arrangement at the resort has already been strengthened in view of the arrival of the UPA MLAs from Jharkhand.
The MLAs reached Birsa Munda airport after they assembled at CM Soren’s official residence in two luxury buses with a registration number from West Bengal and quietly checked in to catch the flight of a private airline parked on the tarmac. They did not speak to the media.
On August 27, as many as 39 UPA MLAs had gone to a guest house in Khunti district, some 40 kilometres from the State capital, Ranchi over lunch and boat ride. They remained there for four hours and retuned back to Ranchi in the evening. Since then, it was speculated that the MLAs would be shifted to some other States, apparently to avoid any poaching by Opposition BJP in view of the impending volatile political situation of the State.
Chief Minister Hemant Soren faces disqualification as an MLA for allegedly violating electoral laws by extending a stone mining lease to himself while holding the mines portfolio.
The Opposition BJP had lodged a complaint with the Governor against Mr Soren and the Governor had sought opinion from the Election Commissioner of India on the issue. On August 25, the ECI reportedly sent its opinion to the Governor in a sealed envelope. The BJP leaders triggered the row by saying that ECI has recommended the “disqualification of Mr. Soren as member of the State Assembly”. It was feared that Mr. Soren might have to step down as the Chief Minister of the State.
However, amid speculations over the fate of Mr. Soren–led UPA Government, the Governor is yet to come out with any decision over the reported ECI notice.
Meanwhile, in 81-member Jharkhand Assembly, Mr. Soren has started exploring ways to keep his flock together by taking the UPA MLAs out of Ranchi. “Yes, there have been attempts to poach our legislators by BJP in different ways. So, we decided to keep them away from all such political noise and din,” said a senior State Congress leader. In charge of the State Congress party Avinash Pandey too has been camping in the State for last three days.
In the State Assembly, JMM has 30 MLAs and among its allies, Congress has 18, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and the Nationalist Congress Party have one each. The three Congress MLAs, though, were recently caught with huge cash in their vehicle in West Bengal and were sent to jail. One JMM MLA is not well and one JMM MLA Chamra Linda from the Bishunpur constituency has gone incommunicado.
The Opposition BJP has 26 MLAs with the support of two legislators of the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) and two others. The magic figure, however, to form the government in the State is 41.
(With inputs from PTI)