The Congress on Sunday (31 July) suspended three Jharkhand MLAs who were allegedly caught with a huge amount of cash in West Bengal's Howrah and accused the BJP of attempting to topple its coalition government in the state.
Jharkhand legislative assembly has 81 elected members with 30 from Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), 25 from BJP, 16 from Congress and 10 'Others'. JMM and Congress are running a coalition government since 2019.
Acting on a tip-off, the West Bengal Police on Saturday evening intercepted an SUV in which Congress MLAs Irfan Ansari, Rajesh Kachchap and Naman Bixal Kongari were travelling, and allegedly found nearly Rs 50 lakh in cash in the car.
After questioning, the lawmakers were formally arrested on Sunday afternoon and subsequently, remanded in the West Bengal CID's custody for 10 days.
Addressing a press conference at the AICC headquarters, party general secretary and Jharkhand in-charge Avinash Pande said Congress president Sonia Gandhi has suspended the three MLAs with immediate effect.
Accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of attempting to topple the Jharkhand government, Pande said democracy is being "shredded to pieces" as elected governments are being destabilised in a brazen manner.
"Efforts are being made for the last two years to destabilise the government in Jharkhand and from time to time, legislators are being contacted, threatened and enticed," he alleged.
The UPA in Jharkhand
Cracks had begin to appear in the ruling coalition in Jharkhand during the presidential election itself when JMM voted for NDA candidate, Droupadi Murmu.
The Jharkhand Congress also had to face an embarrassment when JMM ignored Sonia Gandhi’s request to field a common candidate for a Rajya Sabha seat. The Jharkhand unit of the Congress also complains that the JMM has not shown due respect to Congress ministers and legislators.
Last month Chief Minister Hemant Soren had also met Union Home Minister, Amit Shah. Rumours flew then that he may join NDA if the central government allowed him some respite in the probes against him in various cases.
In this context, it remains a puzzle as to why the BJP, if indeed it was engineering a defection through nefarious means, would send the Congress MLAs to West Bengal, knowing that the Bengal government is a prime opponent of the BJP.
The BJP on its part has rejected Congress' charge. Party spokesperson Syed Zafar Islam in Delhi accused the Congress of shifting the blame for its own legislators' wrong-doing and claimed that Jharkhand has become a "den of corruption."
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had recently arrested Pankaj Mishra, a political aide of Hemant Soren, in connection with a money-laundering probe linked to alleged illegal mining in the state.
Soren has also been accused of wrongdoings in grant of mining leases and is alleged to have favoured his wife while allocating land in an industrial park.
He is also under the scanner of the Election Commission of India (ECI) which is probing an allegation that he held an office of profit at the time of his election to the state Assembly.
(With inputs from PTI)
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