Basant among 2 new faces as Champai Soren expands cabinet

Ranchi : Basant Soren, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) supremo Shibu Soren’s youngest son, on Friday took oath as minister in the Champai Soren-led government in Jharkhand, along with seven others. Basant is also the younger brother of former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, who is in judicial custody in a money laundering case linked to an alleged land scam.

The new faces in the 11-member cabinet are JMM’s Chaibasa MLA Deepak Birua and Basant Soren. Basant Soren was elected as an MLA from Dumka assembly constituency, after he defeated BJP’s Louis Marandi with a margin of 6,842 votes in a by-poll held in November 2020. Birua won the Chaibasa seat by defeating BJP’s J B Tubid by more than 26,000 votes in the 2019 assembly polls.

Those who retained their ministerial berths include Rameshwar Oraon, Banna Gupta and Badal Patralekh of the Congress in addition to JMM’s Mithilesh Kumar Thakur, Hafizul Hasan and Bebi Devi.
Governor C P Radhakrishnan administered the oath of office and secrecy to the ministers. The oath-taking ceremony was held at the Birsa Mandap of Raj Bhavan in presence of senior leaders of the JMM-led alliance and other government officials.

“The portfolios will be distributed soon. We will take forward the work of Jharkhand’s development after assigning responsibilities to every minister,” the CM said. Earlier on February 2, 67-year-old Champai Soren was sworn in as the 12th chief minister of the state, while senior Congress leader Alamgir Alam and RJD leader Satyanand Bhokta took oath as ministers. 

JMM executive president Hemant Soren was arrested by the ED on January 31, shortly after he resigned as the chief minister. The JMM-led alliance in the state has 47 MLAs – JMM-29, Congress-17 and one of the RJD – in the 81-member assembly. The BJP has 26 legislators and the AJSU Party has three. The NCP and CPI (ML) have one lawmaker each, apart from two Independents. There is also a nominated member.

The Congress MLAs, notably Deepika Pandey Singh, Anoop Singh and Rajesh Kacchap, tried to convince the party leadership to replace the ministers with the new faces in the Champai Soren cabinet. They were also eyeing the 12th berth, which lay vacant in the Hemant Soren cabinet. Ahead of the cabinet expansion, around 10 Congress MLAs locked themselves in a room in the Circuit House in protest. Neither the Congress nor the JMM leadership paid heed to their pleas.

However, Congress Jharkhand in-charge Ghulam Ahmad Mir persuaded them to attend the oath ceremony. According to sources, Sita Soren, the sister-in-law of Hemant Soren and a strong contender for a ministerial berth, has been placated with an arrangement in the Soren family. She has been offered the opportunity to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Dumka. Her daughter will contest the assembly election from Jama, the seat represented currently by Sita, the widow of Shibu Soren’s eldest son, Durga Soren.

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