Congress says all is well but legislators are wary of next steps

The arrest of three Congress MLAs from Jharkhand with huge cash in Howrah — just a week after nine of its MLAs were suspected of cross-voting in the presidential election — signals a threat to the stability of the Hemant Soren government. looming large

In fact, talk of an impending political crisis in Jharkhand has been going on ever since the Shiv Sena split in Maharashtra and the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.

Although the Congress is putting up a brave face saying that there is no threat to the stability of the JMM-Congress-RJD alliance government, the reality is that the party is not sure about the next course of action for many of its MLAs, including some state ministers. .

What surprised many in the team was that AICC in-charge Avinash Pandey was in Ranchi for three days from Thursday. He individually met all the MLAs, including Irfan Ansari, Rajesh Kachap and Naman Bixal – the three MLAs who are now under arrest and have been suspended from the party after being caught on charges involving around Rs 50 lakh in cash – and also held a meeting with the Congress legislative team. He heard the “concerns” of the legislators and asked them to remain united. But as soon as he landed in Delhi from Ranchi on Saturday, he was greeted with news of the arrest of three MLAs in Howrah.

Three of the nine were suspected of voting for President Draupadi Murmu, Congress sources said. Pandey asked to identify those who cross-voted in Ranchi and promised to take action against them. Although the party today announced the suspension of three MLAs, it is not certain how the situation will pan out. At least half a dozen of its legislators, sources said, are on the suspect list.

The Congress high command was aware of the tension in Jharkhand, where JMM leader and Chief Minister Hemant Soren is facing the case of Love’s office. The Election Commission is hearing a petition to disqualify Soren for allegedly abusing his office to allocate quarrying leases on government land when he was minister in charge of mines in 2021. Soren is under pressure due to his recent arrest. Enforcement Directorate against his accomplice Pankaj Mishra in the mining case.

Amid growing mistrust among alliance partners, there was talk in the Congress that several of its MLAs were in touch with the BJP. Congress leaders, on the other hand, were claiming that all is well in the party and speculated that Soren might be the one to switch sides and join hands with the BJP. The Congress saw the JMM’s decision to unilaterally announce its candidate for the Rajya Sabha elections and support Murmu as an ominous signal.

However, several Congress leaders warned the leadership that a section of its MLAs (at least eight according to one leader) were in touch with the BJP and that if the number went to 12, the breakaway party would reach two—the third mark to evade the provisions of the anti-defection law.

Pandey told The Indian Express that he was in Ranchi in May and June for the presidential election and later, from Thursday to Saturday.

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“We had a CLP meeting. We had separate meetings. We have settled the grievances of some of our leaders with the Chief Minister. I was there in the joint meeting of the two parties. We also had dinner… going there to meet leaders and MLAs not just for simple chit chat. The objective is to identify and sort problems and issues,” he said.

Pandey said he was preparing a report on the cross-voting episode and would soon submit it to the Congress president. “These three MLAs were there (among those who voted cross). I can confirm this much. About others… that will not go unnoticed,” he said. While he tried to delink cross-voting with the arrest of MLAs, many leaders believe it was part of a larger plan hatched by the BJP to change the equation in Jharkhand.

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