Hemant Soren sworn in, Oppn leaders band together
Hemant Soren on Sunday took oath as the 11th chief minister of Jharkhand in a ceremony billed as a show of strength by opposition parties amid nationwide protests against the amended citizenship act and a proposed move for an all-India National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The alliance of Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) cruised to a majority in the 81-member state assembly in the recently held elections, clinching power from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state.
On Sunday, governor Droupadi Murmu administered the oaths of office and secrecy to 44-year-old Soren, who became the state’s chief minister for the second time.
A host of opposition leaders, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief MK Stalin, his party colleague Kanimozhi, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Communist Party of India general secretary D Raja, Tejashwi Yadav of the RJD, the Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh, former Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav, and Hindustani Awam Morcha’s Jitan Ram Manjhi attended the oath-taking ceremony in Ranchi.
West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, and her counterparts from Rajasthan (Ashok Gehlot) and Chhattisgarh (Bhupesh Baghel) were also present.
The development comes amid a political slugfest between the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government and several opposition parties, which say the Citizenship (Amendment) Act,or CAA, is against India’s secular Constitution because it links citizenship with religion. The government argues that the act is meant for “persecuted minorities” from the three Muslim-majority nations -- Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
While the leaders of several opposition parties turned up for Soren’s swearing-in, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) skipped the function, along with Maharashtra chief minister and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and Congress president Sonia Gandhi also did not attend the function.
“Samajwadi Party (SP) national president Akhilesh Yadav could not go to the Hemant Soren’s swearing-in ceremony owing to a pre-scheduled event of student leaders in Lucknow… But Akhilesh ji did speak to Hemant Soren and congratulate him,” said SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary.
The attendance on Sunday was thin compared to the swearing-in of Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Kumaraswamy as the Karnataka chief minister in May 2018. During the event, all top opposition leaders, including Sonia Gandhi, BSP chief Mayawati, and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, shared the dais.
A BSP leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mayawati does not generally attend swearing-in ceremonies. “Karnataka was an exception because the BSP had contested polls there in alliance with the JD(S) and one of the BSP MLAs was also made a minister there,” he said.
On Sunday, opposition leaders said that the JMM-led alliance’s victory in Jharkhand was the “beginning of the end” of the BJP’s era in the country.
Rahul Gandhi expressed confidence that the new government would work for all and usher in an era of peace and prosperity in Jharkhand. “I attended the swearing in ceremony of CM Hemant Soren ji and ministers from the Congress party in Ranchi today. I’m confident that the new Government in Jharkhand will work for the benefit of all citizens and usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the state,” he tweeted. The Congress leader also shared a few pictures of the ceremony, where he could be seen along with Yechury, D Raja, Sharad Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav.
Speaking to reporters about the Jharkhand election results, Raja said: “The BJP-RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) combine is a grave threat to the Constitution as well as the nation. A nationwide campaign — ‘save-India’ and ‘save-Constitution’ — is going on. Jharkhand gave a great message to the nation in this regard.”
In the recent assembly elections, the JMM-Congress-RJD alliance triumphed over the BJP, winning 47 seats in the 81-member assembly. The BJP bagged 25 seats.
The RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav attacked the BJP. “The unity and coordination of the opposition parties rooted out BJP government from Jharkhand. This message has spread across the country. Its impact could be seen even in Bihar,” he said. Jharkhand BJP spokesperson Pratul Shahdeo hit back at the remarks made by the opposition leaders. “It is a pseudo show of strength. All opposition leaders assembled in Karnataka to attend oath taking ceremony for the formation of Congress-JD(S) government – what happened then? The government did not last. Regarding the oath ceremony of Hemant Soren, the BJP has nothing to comment,” he said.
Political observer LK Kundan, who teaches political science at Ranchi University, said: “Gathering of top opposition leaders sends out message about their unity against the new citizenship law, as a large number of people in the country stood against it and they are protesting on the streets. Opposition parties are trying to cash in on the opportunity to regain their political space.” He added that the Opposition unity also holds significance in view of the upcoming assembly elections in Delhi, Bihar and West Bengal.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Soren and assured him of all possible support from the Centre for the state’s growth. “Congratulations to @HemantSorenJMM Ji on taking oath as Jharkhand CM. I assure all possible support from the Centre for Jharkhand’s growth,” he tweeted.