Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren would be taught a fitting lesson in the by-elections, former minister Enos Ekka said on Friday after being shunted out of the cabinet along with colleague Harinarayan Rai a day earlier.
Ekka, who was rural development minister in the Soren cabinet, told reporters on Friday: "It is an act of cowardice. I thank Soren for relieving me from cabinet responsibilities. People will teach him a lesson in the by-election."
With Soren's move on Thursday, Jharkhand's infamous trio of kingmakers - Madhu Koda, Ekka and Rai - who crossed political borders with dizzying frequency to make or break successive governments, find themselves reduced to mere legislators with Soren shunting all out from the cabinet.
Koda, who was catapulted to the chief minister's post despite being an independent, was discarded in August when Soren's Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) withdrew support to his government. And on Thursday, the fate of the other two independents Ekka and Rai was sealed on corruption charges.
While Ekka was rural development minister, Rai was urban development minister.
The writing had been on the wall.
On Tuesday, Ekka had dared Soren to sack him from the cabinet stating that he would not withdraw his candidate Raja Peter from the Tamar by-assembly election that Soren is contesting.
Soren has to get elected to the state assembly before Feb 27 - he took oath as chief minister on Aug 27; according to the constitution, any person can become chief minister or minister but he or she has to get elected to the state assembly within six months.
The charges against Rai and Ekka are serious.
On Nov 26, the vigilance department lodged a first information report (FIR) on charges of swindling government funds, amassing wealth through illegal means and indulging in conspiracy.
It filed the complaint in response to a petition that alleged that both ministers had amassed wealth more than their income since they became legislators and later ministers in 2005.
The petitioner alleged that Ekka had included in his assets listed during the 2005 assembly elections Rs.50,000 cash, investment of Rs.700,000, one bike and one tractor. But he on Friday owns property and land worth more than Rs.500 million (Rs.50 crore). Similarly, Rai has assets of more than Rs.300 million, up from hundred thousands in 2005.
Reacting to the controversy, Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) former chief minister Arjun Munda said: "Soren's step is politically motivated to gain in the by-election. Both ministers should have been sacked when the vigilance department had lodged the FIR against them."
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) legislator Girinath Singh welcomed the move, however: "Shibu Soren has done the right thing to sack ministers facing corruption charges."
In August 2005, Ekka, Rai and Koda extended support to the Munda government. A year later, in September 2006, they helped topple it and propped Koda as United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chief minister.
And in August this year, when Soren brought the Koda government down he made sure to find cabinet berths for Ekka and Rai.