Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Hindu
The Hindu
Amarnath Tewary

Hemant Soren | Weathering the political storm

For more than a fortnight, Hemant Soren had been busy keeping his flock of legislators together after Governor Ramesh Bais reportedly received a notice from the Election Commission of India (ECI), seeking the Jharkhand Chief Minister’s disqualification as an MLA in connection with a case lodged against him involving a stone chips mining lease in 2019. The mysterious envelope from the ECI was said to be received by the Governor’s office on August 25. Fearing poaching of MLAs by the Opposition BJP, the Mr. Soren-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had even shifted some of them to neighbouring Chhattisgarh.

Amid the evolving situation in the tribal State, UPA leaders met the Governor on August 31 and submitted a memorandum, urging him to clear the air regarding the ECI notice. The Governor reportedly assured them that he would bring the matter to closure in two days.

On September 5, Mr. Soren went on to prove majority of his government on the floor of the House to assert his hold over the alliance. The Governor, meanwhile, left for Delhi and returned to State capital Ranchi after a week on September 8.

Mr. Soren faced the political stalemate with a composed demeanour, saying he was well-prepared to counter any move by the Opposition to bring down his government. During the trust motion in the 81-member State Assembly, as many as 48 UPA MLAs voted for the Mr. Soren-led government, while the BJP staged a walkout. Speaker Rabindra Nath Mahto said since the government had won the trust vote in the House, “there is absolutely no uncertainty” over its fate. Though the mystery over the ECI notice is far from over, Mr. Soren seems to have weathered the political storm, at least for now.

Reluctant politician

Mr. Soren, 47, son of three-time former Chief Minister and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) patriarch Shibu Soren and Roopi Soren, was reluctant to join politics and wanted to become an engineer. He joined the Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra in Ranchi to pursue B.Tech. in mechanical engineering, but the sudden death of his elder brother, Durga Soren, due to brain haemorrhage in May 2009, pushed him into politics as an engineering dropout.

Mr. Soren is married to Kalpana and the couple have two sons. His younger brother, Basant Soren, a JMM MLA from Dumka, was recently in news over his controversial comments that he was on a visit to Delhi to buy “undergarments”. Mr. Soren also has a younger sister, Anjali.

Mr. Soren was elected to the Rajya Sabha in June 2009. He resigned from the Upper House in January 2010 after he was elected to the State Assembly from the Dumka constituency. He was quick to rise to the position of Deputy Chief Minister in September 2010, with BJP leader Arjun Munda as the Chief Minister and the JMM being an alliance partner. However, the bonhomie between the two parties soon turned sour.

Mr. Soren was sworn in as the Jharkhand Chief Minister for the first time on July 15, 2013 with the support of the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal. Between 2015 and 2019, he served as the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the House. He was again elected as the 11th Chief Minister of the State in December 2019 with the support of the Congress, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and others. The president of the JMM, Mr. Soren currently represents the Barhait constituency.

Spearheaded protests

In 2016, when the then-BJP government led by Chief Minister Raghuvar Das tried to amend the Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, 1949 which allowed transfer of Adivasi land for building roads, canals, educational institutions, hospitals and for other government purposes, the Opposition led by Mr. Soren staged strong protests against the Amendment Bill till it was withdrawn in August 2017.

The protests, many in Jharkhand say, put Mr. Soren at the centrestage of Jharkhand politics and made him the true heir of their  Guruji, Shibu Soren. From a reluctant politician, Mr. Soren had evolved into a “mature” one.

With the sword of disqualification still hanging over his head, it remains to be seen if Mr. Soren can continue to beat the odds.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.