Hemant Soren Takes Oath As Chief Minister, Day After Champai Soren Quit

Hemant Soren was sworn in as Chief Minister of Jharkhand this evening, completing a five-month political arc stretching from January – when he quit minutes before his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate, which has accused him in a land fraud worth crores – to June – when he was given bail by a High Court that said records do not indicate his “direct involvement” in the alleged scam.

Mr Soren was sworn in at 5 pm in Raj Bhavan with his father, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha patriarch, and two-time former Chief Minister Shibu Soren in attendance.

That Mr Soren would return to claim the state’s top job was never in doubt.

He only quit – amid late-night drama that started with “the case of the missing Chief Minister“- to avoid the ignominy of being the first sitting state head to be arrested.

Senior JMM leader Champai Soren – drafted in to replace Hemant Soren – will stand down, even if he is not, and he has not really hidden his disappointment, loathe to do so. At the meeting of the JMM’s legislature party Champai Soren, who may be the Executive President, said he had been “insulted”.

READ | Hemant Soren To Return In Jharkhand, “Upset” Champai Soren To Quit

Undeterred, the JMM approved Hemant Soren’s return, naming the 48-year-old its legislature leader. Champai Soren, hours later, trudged up to Governor CP Radhakrishnan, and resigned.

His comments immediately after were suitably subdued. “When the leadership had changed, I was given responsibility. You know the sequence of events. After Hemant Soren came back we picked him as our leader and I resigned. I am following decision taken by the coalition…” he said in Hindi.

READ | Champai Soren Quits As Chief Minister, Paves Way For Hemant

The JMM heads an alliance that include the Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal, and a Left party.

The Soren swap in Jharkhand is a calibrated move by the ruling alliance ahead of the Assembly election later this year. In 2019 the alliance won 47 seats to ease past the majority mark.

The BJP, contesting by itself, won 25 seats.

The ruling alliance is banking on Hemant Soren to lead its fight. However, the decision to have Champai Soren to step down and make room is likely to provide the BJP with ammunition.

In fact, the BJP has already attacked; Nishikant Dubey, the MP from Godda, said on X “the Champai Soren era is over”. “In the family-oriented party, people outside the family have no political future… I wish the Chief Minister (Champai Soren)… stands up against the corrupt Hemant Sorenji“.

Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Champai Soren (File).

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Sarma has also taken a swipe. ”The removal of a senior tribal leader as Chief Minister… is deeply distressing,” Mr Sarma, who is the BJP’s co-in charge for the state, said.

Champai Soren, 67, is a veteran leader who has been with a close aide of JMM founder and Rajya Sabha MP Shibu Soren (no relation) for decades. Hemant Soren is Shibu Soren’s son.

His term as Chief Minister soon ran into trouble after reports in February that some Congress MLAs were unhappy over his induction of four ministers from the JMM, including Alamgir Alam, who was arrested by the ED in May in the same land scam case that has Hemant Soren at the centre.

That crisis was averted by Basant Soren, Shibu Soren’s youngest son, who talked the disgruntled MLAs down from the ledge, and Champai Soren said, “There is no issue… our alliance is strong.”

READ | Champai Soren Takes Oath As Jharkhand Chief Minister

Champai Soren’s rise, however brief, to the Chief Minister’s post followed a power struggle within the JMM as the party scrambled to find a sudden replacement for Hemant Soren.

There was talk then that the outgoing Chief Minister’s wife, Kalpana Soren, could be installed in his place, but her lack of electoral or administrative experience meant she was never really an option.

There was also talk Basant Soren or Sita Soren, who is the wife of another of Shibu Soren’s sons, Durga Soren, could be picked. Sita Soren declared herself the “natural heir”, but she was overlooked.

Disgruntled, she quit the JMM and joined the BJP, claiming she had not been given her due.

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