A DELHI court on Tuesday held Union Coal Minister Shibu Soren guilty of conspiracy in the abduction and murder of his former private secretary Shashi Nath Jha in 1994.
The court verdict triggered off a series of political developments. Opposition parties led by the BJP redrew their strategies to take on the government in Parliament and outside, while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tried to minimise the damage by making it known that Soren, chief of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), an alliance partner of the UPA, was not needed in the Cabinet.
“The prime minister has sought Shibu Soren’s resignation,” Sanjaya Baru, the PM’s media adviser, told reporters a few hours after the court verdict. Soren’s resignation was later accepted.
It is exactly a year since Soren, whose party has five members in the Lok Sabha, was re-inducted in the Cabinet.
In his earlier tenure in the UPA government, Soren had to resign after a Jharkhand court issued a non-bailable warrant against him in connection with another murder case.
In the present case, the court will pronounce sentence on Soren and four others on November 30. The CBI has taken all five in custody. Soren's conviction has given the NDA a potent political issue to exploit, prompting the BJP to even consider postponing L.K. Advani's adjournment motion on the internal security scenario to another day. Instead, on Wednesday, the main opposition party decided to target the prime minister who, it alleged, "misused'' his power to choose his Cabinet by inducting "criminal elements".
"The PM must explain to Parliament how he misused his power and inducted Soren," said BJP's Arun Jaitley. BJP party spokesman V.K. Malhotra said: "It is an established practice that any charge-sheeted person should not be in the government.
But this has not happened in the UPA government."
The opposition also plans to raise the issue of "tainted ministers" in the campaign for the forthcoming assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttaranchal. Immediately after the court held Soren guilty, the Left parties declared that it would be untenable for him to continue as a minister though he the right to appeal.
Congress leaders, too, made it clear that there was no question of backing the JMM leader. "All consequential steps will be taken by the government," said Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.R. Dasmunsi. The latest setback to the government comes at a time when the Manmohan Singh government is grappling with issues like the farmer suicides and agrarian distress which have threatened to mar its firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com