Ranchi to Raipur resort: UPA MLAs fly to ‘safe haven’ to thwart BJP’s ‘poaching bid’

An MLA who reached the resort said they have not been given any instructions on the next course of action but are expected to stay there until September 4. “Some more MLAs will come on Wednesday and the Cabinet ministers may fly to Ranchi on September 1 to attend a Cabinet meeting,” the MLA said.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, who stayed back in Ranchi, said they are “preparing a strategy” to handle the situation.

Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren with UPA MLAs in Ranchi on Tuesday. The MLAs were sent to Raipur, amid speculation of Soren’s disqualification as an MLA. (PTI)

After seeing off the team of 41, including the 32 MLAs, Soren told reporters outside Ranchi airport: “We are ready to face every situation and we are preparing a strategy to tackle it. You have seen a glimpse of that strategy earlier and are witnessing it now as well. The ruling dispensation will give a solid reply to the conspirators in the state.”

Soren’s Chhattisgarh counterpart, Bhupesh Baghel, met the Jharkhand MLAs at the resort late Tuesday evening, hours after they landed in Raipur at 5.40 pm.

While this is the third time in the last one-and-a-half years that legislators of Congress and its allies from multiple states have been shifted to Raipur amid suspicion of ‘horse-trading’, sources said an alternative location is also being scouted, in case the need arises. “Initially, Chhattisgarh said they cannot handle all the MLAs, so we thought of going to Rajasthan. But we got confirmation from Raipur later,” an MLA said.

A state cabinet meeting is scheduled for September 1 and ministers from the Congress such as Rameshwar Oraon, Badal Patralekh may return to Ranchi to attend it. JMM leaders such as Basant Soren and Mithilesh Thakur, a minister, have stayed back in Jharkhand.

At Raipur airport, Chhattisgarh Congress leaders Girish Dewangan and Ramgopal Agarwal met the MLAs, who were thereafter taken to the resort, about 11 km away, in three buses.

While Chhattisgarh minister Ravindra Choubey said the state government is helping Jharkhand MLAs “save the idea of democracy”, state BJP leader Gouri Shanker Shrivas slammed the Baghel government. He tweeted, “The government had promised to ban alcohol. Now they are serving alcohol using government resources to MLAs from Jharkhand.”

Maintaining that the saffron party is out to topple non-BJP state governments, Choubey told the media: “The BJP has started a new trend of destroying elected governments. After Maharashtra, their next target is Jharkhand. To provide them (MLAs) safety, what’s the harm if they are brought here? We will do everything it takes to safeguard democratic governments.”

Maharashtra in mind, taking no chances

In a House of 81 members (besides one nominated), reaching the magic figure of 42 may seem like a tall order for an Opposition party that has 26 MLAs, but Maharashtra fresh in mind, CM Hemant Soren is unwilling to take any chances. And amid murmurs of poaching in Ranchi, Soren appears to be waiting until the ECI letter — on BJP’s petition seeking his disqualification as MLA in an office of profit case — is public.

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