Congress suspends 3 MLAs, says cash meant to topple Jharkhand govt

Updated on Aug 01, 2022 12:52 AM IST

While the Congress has already accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of attempting to bring down its coalition government, the latter has dismissed the charge.

Jharkhand Congress MLAs Rajesh Kachchap, Naman Kongari and Irfan Ansari. (PTI)
Jharkhand Congress MLAs Rajesh Kachchap, Naman Kongari and Irfan Ansari. (PTI)
By, Ranchi

Three Congress legislators from Jharkhand, who were held with a huge amount of cash in West Bengal on Saturday, were suspended from the party on Sunday, with a party legislator alleging that the trio were part of a conspiracy to topple the Hemant Soren-led government.

While the Congress has already accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of attempting to bring down its coalition government, the latter has dismissed the charge.

The suspended legislators are Irfan Ansari (Jamtara), Rajesh Kachchap (Khijri) and Naman Bixal Kongari (Kolebira). They were arrested on Sunday after 49 lakh in cash was recovered from their vehicle in Bengal’s Howrah district, around 30 km west of Kolkata.

In his first information report (FIR) registered with Argora police, Congress MLA from Bermor, Jaimangal Singh, alleged that the trio had called him to Kolkata and offered him 10 crore and a ministerial berth if the BJP forms the government in the state. The trio also offered to pay other legislators a similar amount if they switched sides and brought down the present government, Singh said.

“Irfan Ansari and Rajesh Kachhap wanted me to come to Kolkata and then take me to Guwahati where, according to them, a meeting was fixed with Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. They said Sarma would assure me of a definite ministerial berth besides 10 crore. Irfan Ansari told me he was already offered the health ministry in the new government,” the FIR, a copy of which HT has seen, said.

“He (Ansari) also told me that he would reach Kolkata on Saturday afternoon. He said he had already got the money transferred to one of his aides and would give them to me once I reach Guwahati and promise support to Sarma. He assured me that Sarma was doing all this with blessings from top BJP leaders in Delhi,” it added.

In the 81-member Jharkhand assembly, the JMM has 30 seats, Congress has 18 and the RJD has only one legislator. The state opposition BJP has 26 MLAs and its ally AJSU Party has two legislators. The other members include one each of CPI(ML) and NCP, and two independents.

Accompanied by state Congress chief Rajesh Thakur to the police station, Singh sought action against the three legislators under section 7 (C) of Prevention of Corruption Act and 120 (B) of Indian Penal Code.

Sarma downplayed the allegations and said he continued to be in contact with Congress leaders because of his long association with the party.

“Congress leaders keep in touch with me as old friends. I had been with that party for over 20 years. They meet me if they come here and I also meet them when in New Delhi,” he told reporters in Guwahati.

Thakur, however, termed the incident unfortunate and deplorable. “We informed our party in-charge Avinash Pande and general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal. As per their feedback, the party president has directed suspension of the MLAs with immediate effect,” Thakur said.

Congress legislature party leader Alamgir Alam said the party leadership is keeping an eye on other possible dissenters. “Anyone found to be involved in a similar act will face similar action,” he said.

At least nine to 10 of 18 Congress legislators in Jharkhand had cross-voted in favour of the National Democratic Alliance’s candidate, Droupadi Murmu, in the July 18 presidential election.

The BJP is attempting to topple the government in Jharkhand as was done in other states, Thakur said. “This is a dangerous precedent. The BJP wants to form a government by hook or crook, using its muscle and money power. Wonder why they did not roll out the Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau of Investigation when Maharashtra MLAs were spending lakhs in Surat and Guwahati,” he said, referring to the political crisis in Maharashtra that saw the formation of a new government following a rebellion by Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde against former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray last month.

Congress leaders in Assam said they had no information on any of their colleagues in Jharkhand visiting Guwahati.

“But if there’s any truth in that (Singh’s allegations), we suspect this could be another version of BJP’s Operation Lotus after the political crisis among Maharashtra Shiv Sena MLAs. It’s a shame that Assam is being used for such anti-democratic things and BJP, the ruling party in the state, is supporting such moves,” senior Congress MLA and leader of opposition in Assam assembly, Debabrata Saikia, said.

During the political turmoil in Maharashtra, rebel Shiv Sena leaders were shifted to Surat and then Guwahati.

“While we had no information on Jharkhand Congress MLAs visiting Guwahati, few party legislators from that state had visited Assam few days prior to the Eknath Shinde episode in June,” Assam Congress chief Bhupen Kumar Borah said.

The BJP dismissed the allegations of horse trading and said the Congress was hiding the corrupt actions of its own legislators.

“The Congress has got an FIR registered and is making a false allegation against the BJP to hide their corrupt actions after their own MLAs were caught with huge amounts of cash. This is shameful and laughable. They do not trust their own MLAs and are testing to shield their corruption,” BJP legislature party leader Babulal Marandi said.

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    Vishal Kant works as an Assistant Editor with Hindustan Times. He tracks developments in Aam Aadmi Party and Delhi government. Vishal has spent about a decade covering the city politics and governance, besides writing on Delhi’s civic issues, urban transport and infrastructure.

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