Ranchi/Dumka, Aug. 23: A chartered plane today flew Shibu Soren’s lawyer R.K. Anand and his family members to Dumka.
But while they spent nearly two hours in prison with the JMM chief, their hopes of getting him released today were dashed when it became clear the “release order” from Jamtara court had not arrived.
A beaming Anand, however, refused to comment when asked if his client is tipped to take over as chief minister of the state for the second time. “No, it will not be appropriate to say anything. Let’s wait and watch,” he replied.
Anand had not represented Soren in the lower court, which convicted him for the murder of his private secretary Shashinath Jha in 1994. But he argued for him in Delhi High Court and secured his acquittal.
But Soren’s wife was not as cautious as Anand. “My husband is the natural choice as the chief minister,” declared Rupi Soren at Dumka today.
The belligerent wife of the JMM chief wondered how anybody else could occupy the slot when her husband is still around. “Remember his sacrifices. He alone can bring prosperity to the state,” she said with utter conviction.
Disappointed at the delay in releasing Soren from jail, she nevertheless instructed her cooks to repeat the favourite food of her husband tomorrow as well.
The popular mood at the grassroots, among JMM cadres, appeared overwhelmingly in favour of Soren replacing the present incumbent as chief minister. Indeed, the cocky JMM supporters openly discussed the possibility and felt it is only a matter of time.
Government officials, quick to sense the mood, made a beeline to call on Soren at Dumka jail. Bouquets and sweet packets had piled up in the jail office, said prison staff. And incessant calls on his cell phones kept him busy. “Even if he fails to become the chief minister, he will be, after all, more powerful than the chief minister,” said an official to justify his presence at the jail.
But the mood is not reflected among JMM leaders, who seemed cold to the idea. “The organisation is in a shambles and some of the leaders have grown too big for their boots,” reflected one of them on condition of anonymity. “Guruji’s first priority should be to set his home in order.”
While Soren has been acquitted by Delhi High Court, the CBI has said it would appeal against the order, he pointed out.
Deputy chief minister Sudhir Mahto concurred. “This is not the right moment for us to get involved in any kind of power play,” he said.
Senior JMM leaders from Santhal Pargana were conspicuous by their absence at the Dumka jail.