Days after Raipur flight, Soren Cabinet approves hiring of chartered plane

The Jharkhand cabinet Thursday approved hiring a chartered aircraft for a month beginning August 31 for “government-related” out-of-state travels of VVIPs and VIPs. The move comes days after 32 ruling coalition MLAs were flown to Congress-ruled Chattisgarh amid uncertainty over Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s eligibility to continue as MLA.

The political uncertainty in the state — following an Election Commission communication to the Governor that is said to have recommended Soren’s disqualificiation — has sparked fears of poaching attempts within the JMM-Congress-RJD dispensation.

On Thursday morning, Soren left for Raipur and returned with four Congress cabinet ministers so  they could attend the meeting.

The cabinet approval for the charter aircraft read: “Rajya ke VIPs/VVIPs ki rajya ke bahar ki sarkari yatra hetu dinaank 31.8.2022 ke prabhav se ek maah ke liye Fixed Wing Jet Charter viman ki seva manonayan ke adhaar par prapt karne hetu mantriparishad ki swikriti di gayi (The cabinet approved the hiring of services of Fixed Wing Jet Charter aircraft, on a nomination basis, for government-related travels of the state’s VVIPs/VIPs outside the state effective from August 31).”

Top sources in the government said the move was made keeping in mind the political crisis. A source added: “It has been done on nomination basis because there won’t be any tendering process. Plus, until now, the same was done for choppers. This is for the first time that the services of eight-seater charter aircraft will be available with a minimum hours flying guarantee to the tune of Rs 2 crore. It means that even if the government does not want to fly it still has to pay the amount.”

Meanwhile in Raipur, ruling Jharkhand MLAs blamed BJP for their stay in resort, saying the party was destabilising the government. MLAs Dipika Pandey, Sudivya Kumar Sonu, Bhushan Bara and Stephen Marandi, accompanied by state Congress chief Rajesh Thakur came out of the resort to intereact with media persons, amid tight security.

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Asked about BJP’s claims that they are picnicking, Pandey said: “BJP does not have the right to say such a thing. You (the media) are asking us to respond. Did you ask questions in Assam when the drama was being staged with people of Maharashtra?”

On  poaching fears, Pandey said: “…If we all wanted to save our government it is our right.”

On Thursday, another MLA from Ranchi arrived at the resort.

With inputs from Gargi Verma in Raipur

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