There was action and drama in Jharkhand on Wednesday night. Hemant Soren, the state’s chief minister, resigned from his post, and was subsequently arrested by the Enforcement Directorate. And amid this drama, Hemant Soren’s party, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), appointed Cabinet minister and veteran leader Champai Soren as the new state head.
Champai Soren met Governor CP Radhakrishnan and staked claim to form the new Jharkhand government, claiming support of 47 MLAs. To form the government, the ruling alliance needs 41 MLAs and presently it has numbers above the magic figure.
The ascension of Champai Soren comes at a time when there was heavy speculation that Hemant Soren would install his wife, Kalpana Soren, at the seat of power.
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As we wait for the swearing-in of Champai Soren, we take a closer look at who he is and how we got here.
Champai Soren — the Jharkhand Tiger
Champai Soren, the transport minister in the Hemant Soren government, has been a long time member of the JMM. The 68-year-old is a loyalist of JMM supremo Shibu Soren and fought along with him for the Jharkhand movement, earning him the nickname of ‘Jharkhand tiger’.
He was born in November 1956 at Jilinggora village in Jharkhand’s Seraikela-Kharsawan district to a farmer — Simal Soren. Champai Soren is not related to the Hemant Soren family.
It is reported that Champai Soren worked on his farms alongside his father. He received education up to Class X from a government school. He reportedly also got married at a very young age and has four sons and three daughters.
Before Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in 2000, he represented Saraikela constituency in the Bihar Assembly after winning the 1995 state elections. And since then, he has been serving the constituency, winning the polls five times.
A Times of India report states that he has also been a trade union leader. He has carried out several successful trade movements in the towns of Jamshedpur and Adityapur.
Before transport minister, Champai Soren has also served as the minister for science and technology, labour and housing between September 2010 to January 2013. And from July 2013 to December 2014, he has served as a minister of food and civil supplies as well as transport.
In the political sphere, he’s known and revered and shares a good rapport with leaders from other parties as well.
Champai Soren’s rise to the top
The rise of Champai Soren to the chief minister’s post comes amid high drama in the state. Earlier, on Wednesday (31 January), Hemant Soren appeared before the Enforcement Directorate for questioning in an alleged land scam case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. This came about after he had gone ‘missing’ on Monday and evaded questioning.
Following a seven-hour grilling, Soren realised his arrest was imminent and he — accompanied by the ED officials — went to Raj Bhavan where he tendered his resignation as chief minister.
Congress president Rajesh Thakur, who is in the alliance with the JMM said, “Hemant Soren has resigned as the chief minister of Jharkhand. The ruling JMM-Congress-RJD alliance has proposed the name of senior JMM leader Champai Soren as the new CM.”
Hemant Soren had earlier in the day lodged an FIR against ED personnel over searches conducted by the agency at his Delhi residence on Monday. And in the night, moved the Jharkhand High Court. However, it is still unknown as to why he moved the court. His petition will be heard by the bench of Acting Chief Justice Shree Chandrashekhar and Justice Anubha Rawat Choudhary at 10.30 am today. The outgoing chief minister has alleged that the actions of the ED officials have been to “harass and malign him and his entire community”.
Following Hemant Soren’s arrest, several tribal outfits have called for a bandh in the state. Kendriya Sarna Samiti president Ajay Tirkey was quoted as telling news agency PTI that 15-20 tribal organisations from across the state will join the shutdown. “Despite cooperating with the ED in the investigation, Hemant Soren was arrested. We protest this,” he said.
Soren’s arrest also prompted strong reactions from leaders of the Opposition grouping — INDIA bloc. Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on X wrote, “The one who did not go with (Narendra) Modi ji will go to jail. Putting ED against Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren and forcing him to resign is a blow to federalism.”
With inputs from agencies