Lease Controversy Threatens Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren’s Political Career

Jharkhand is again in the limelight, but for all the wrong reasons.

First, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s name got mired in a mining controversy for a land he leased to himself.

Moreover, controversial Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer and mining secretary Pooja Singhal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the alleged embezzlement of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) funds and the money laundering Act.

While the cases are not directly related, the lease was renewed when Singhal was the mining secretary, thus compounding the matter.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has connected the dots to attack Jharkhand CM, while Soren said whoever was responsible will be punished, but investigation must also include why Singhal was given a clean chit by the previous Raghubar Das government.

AT FAULT?

Hemant Soren, who is also the working president of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, allotted a granite mining lease to himself and his brother, Basant. The news spread like wildfire, but the issue got complicated as he also holds the environment and mining department.

Soren surrendered the lease on February 11, 2022, however, the court found it objectionable and asked him to file an affidavit.

The BJP, meanwhile, submitted all documents pertaining to mining to governor Ramesh Bais, based on whose recommendation the Election Commission (EC) issued a notice to the chief minister. The EC has given Soren another 10 days to respond, as he faces the danger of being disqualified under section 9A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

Das, however, accused Soren of misusing the office for personal gains. He alleged that Soren’s act amounts to violation of Representation of the People Act, 1951, which may result in his resignation.

The JMM hit back, saying merely owning a mining lease doesn’t come under office of profit, as the quarry was not operational.

After due process, the mining lease in Angarha was given in-principle approval by the District Mining Officer (DMO) and later by the Block development officer (BDO) on June 7, 2021.

CAREER AT STAKE

Soren is facing a tough time in his career as he has to convince the EC to avoid disqualification.

JMM leader Manoj Kumar said, “There is no danger to the JMM government as we have a majority in the Assembly. As far as the mining case is concerned, we have asked the EC to consider our point of view. We believe owning a mine will not result in Soren’s disqualification.”

After the EC’s notice, the political situation has become unstable, said Pradeep Sinha, a BJP leader.

This is not the first time, the Soren family is in trouble.

His father and former Chief Minister Shibu Soren was accused of receiving money to support P V Narsimha Rao-led minority government in 1993, which was later known as the JMM bribery case.

The JMM patriarch was also convicted by a trial court in 2006 in connection with the murder of his private secretary. He was later acquitted.

Basant Soren’s name also figured in an illegal mining case in Pakur district, even before he became the MLA from Dumka Assembly.

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