SHAMBHU NATH CHOUDHARY
Ranchi, Oct 25 (IANS) Ten Governors have been appointed in Jharkhand since it came into existence as a state about 22 years and 11 months ago. Of these, the tenure of Syed Sibte Razi, who was Governor between 2004 and 2009, and Ramesh Bais, the 10th Governor, will be remembered for political controversies.
The role of Syed Sibte Razi had sparked intense controversy in 2005 when he administered the oath of chief ministership to Shibu Soren, the leader of the UPA, instead of the leader of the single largest party, the BJP, after the assembly election results. Soren had to resign after nine days as he was not able to prove his majority and then Arjun Munda was sworn in as CM.
The tenure of the current Governor Ramesh Bais began on July 7, 2021. During his tenure of nearly one and a half years till now, there have been reports of differences, tensions and disagreements between Raj Bhavan and the state government on at least three-four occasions.
For the past two months, a political tug of war has been going on between Governor Ramesh Bais and Chief Minister Hemant Soren over a letter from the Election Commission of India.
This sealed letter reached Raj Bhavan in Ranchi from New Delhi on August 25. This letter is related to deciding the eligibility-disqualification of Chief Minister Hemant Soren, but even after 59 days it has not been officially disclosed what is the text of this letter.
Soren and the state’s ruling coalition have alleged that political uncertainty and confusion have been created due to non-disclosure of this letter. On the other hand, the Governor has publicly said that it is his discretion when and what decision he will take on this letter. No one should question this.
The letter pertains to a case related to Hemant Soren’s Office of Profit and alleged violation of the Representation of the People Act. Soren had taken a stone quarry on lease with an area of 88 decimils in his name in Anagada in Ranchi while being the Chief Minister.
However, no mining work took place there and later Soren surrendered the lease. The BJP had complained to the Governor calling it a case of violation of the Office of Profit and Representation of the People Act. The Governor had sought the opinion of the Election Commission on this. The commission issued notice to the complainant and Hemant Soren and sought their response in this matter. After hearing both the sides, the Election Commission had sent its decision in a sealed cover to the Raj Bhavan on August 25.
Unofficially, news has been doing the rounds that the Election Commission has recommended the cancellation of Hemant Soren’s assembly membership considering him guilty and because of this he may lose his Chief Minister’s chair. Amid the political suspense and confusion created by such reports, the ruling coalition had to undertake ‘dinner diplomacy’ and ‘resort stay’ to express solidarity with Hemant Soren. The ruling coalition also passed a motion of trust in Soren’s favour in a special session of the assembly.
Despite all this, the Governor has not yet revealed the contents of the letter and due to this the Hemant Soren government is going through a period of uncertainty about its future. On September 15, Soren met Bais and demanded that he clarify the situation regarding the letter of the Election Commission. He told the Governor that there is an atmosphere of uncertainty in the state. In such a situation, being the constitutional head of the state, he should take appropriate steps to protect democracy and the Constitution.
The Chief Minister also requested the Governor in writing to provide him a copy of the decision sent by the Election Commission regarding his membership of the Assembly and the matter should be heard at the earliest. No response has been received from the Governor on this request so far. After this, on October 8, Vinod Pandey, the general secretary of the ruling party JMM, asked for a copy of the letter of the Election Commission by giving an application under the Right to Information Act at the Raj Bhavan. Along with the application, he also submitted a postal order of Rs 10. No response has been received on this as well.
About a month ago, when asked what is in the letter of the Election Commission and when will it be opened, the Governor while avoiding the question in a light-hearted manner said that the envelope which has come from the Election Commission is stuck so hard that it is not opening.
On October 15, Hemant Soren while talking to reporters at CM House said, “I am the first Chief Minister of the entire country, who is going from the door of the Election Commission to the Governor, urging them to say if I have committed any crime, then what punishment has been given to me for it? I am asking him time and again that if I am really guilty, then how am I continuing in the post of Chief Minister?”
Hemant Soren also questioned the credibility and transparency of constitutional institutions by naming the Governor during the same press conference. He said that the way the central agencies are working, it seems that there is some power behind them, whose behest they are compelled to follow.
Governor Ramesh Bais has raised questions many times in the last eight-ten months on the decisions of the government to the bills passed by the government in the assembly. In February, the Governor had raised many questions on the rules made by the state government regarding the formation of the Tribal Advisory Council (TAC).
Bais had complained to the Centre saying that the rules made by the state government in June 2021 are contrary to the constitutional provisions and encroachment on the powers of the governor. He returned the TAC’s manual and the file related to its formation to the state government and asked for changes in it. Even after months, there is a deadlock between the Raj Bhavan and the government on this matter.
In the last few months, the Governor has returned half a dozen bills including the Anti-Mob Lynching Bill and the Krishi Mandi Bill passed by the state government in the Assembly. Recently, he also returned the bill passed by the government regarding the increase in court fees for reconsideration. During the review of the functioning of the tourism, cultural development, sports and youth affairs department last week, the governor expressed dissatisfaction and even remarked that a lack of vision was evident in the state.
Overall, it can be said that there are many chapters yet to be written in the script of tension and confrontation between the Raj Bhavan and the state government in Jharkhand.
SHAMBHU NATH CHOUDHARY