Ranchi, Feb. 17: The JMM has been enduring ill omens for long, but it is more fidgety than ever as party supremo Shibu Soren battles growing concerns about a section of his MLAs facing legal wrangles and imminent arrest.
The latest entrant in the list of troubled MLAs is his daughter-in-law Sita Soren, adding to Guruji’s worries beyond a failure to form alternative government with the Congress in Jharkhand after the BJP-led coalition fell last month when the JMM withdrew support.
Almost half of his party MLAs, out of 18, is in legal soup over the ongoing CBI probe into cash-for-vote Rajya Sabha election scandals in 2010 and 2012 and few other vigilance cases.
Sita, the Jama MLA, is not only believed to be an accused in the 2012 case, but she could face music as Ranchi police have corroborated evidence against her of allegedly abducting her former aide Vikas Pandey, alias Santi, who is a CBI witness against her.
“Guruji is worried about the way things have progressed. He is particularly concerned about Sita, as he was emotionally attached to his elder son Durga. There are definite indications of serious crisis in the party,” a close aide of Soren told The Telegraph.
Soren himself was summoned and questioned by the CBI on January 25, in connection with the coal scam in his capacity as former Union coal minister in the UPA government. The CBI is even gathering and scrutinising evidences against the Soren family in a disproportionate assets case.
But JMM insiders fear deepening legal problems on half of the legislative flock of the party in the Rajya Sabha elections probe.
During a raid on the premises of JMM Jamtara MLA Vishnu Bhaiya on April 21 last year, the CBI had seized a Toyota Fortuner and Rs 4 lakh.
Another MLA Paulus Surin (Torpa) is believed to be in the CBI net in the 2012 horse-trading case. Refusing to divulge details, CBI sources hinted involvement of a good number of JMM MLAs in the episode.
As the CBI is acting fast to meet the deadline set by Jharkhand High Court to complete investigation and constitutional procedures to file chargesheet against the accused in the 2012 case, it has deeply worried the JMM.
“My detractors are trying to finish my political career and have implicated me in false cases. Believe me I am innocent,” Sita told The Telegraph.
Party senior Simon Marandi (Littipara MLA) stands as an accused in the 2010 Rajya Sabha cash-for-vote row after he was caught on camera along with five other legislators from the party, BJP and Congress.
JMM leader Nalin Soren (Shikaripara), too, has been evading arrest in a 2007 scam when he was agriculture minister in the then Madhu Koda government.
Leaders at the JMM headquarters looked despaired for explanations they could not afford to air publicly.
“Kya bolen? Election aa raha hai aise me toh adhi party hi samapt ho jayegi. Yah ham logon ko kamjor karne ki sajish hai. Lekin kuch galti hui tab to kisi ko hamen fasane ka mauka mila, (What do we say? Elections are nearing and half the party will be finished this way. This is a conspiracy to weaken us. Some mistakes provided other a chance to implicate us,)” said a party leader.
Senior Soren is struggling to establish son Hemant as his rightful and unquestioned political successor at a time the party’s rank-and-file members are in a directionless drift. Senior leaders like Hemlal Murmu and some others from Kolhan are apprehensive that a political rookie like Hemant should be given such a promotion at the cost of experienced.
However, the loyalists are engaged in a dutiful defence, sparing father and son any blame for the JMM’s woes.
Soren is about to summon an emergency meeting of party functionaries and MLAs next week and discuss legal and political challenges.
“Guruji is very worried. He has convened a meeting to discuss all these issues. We will fight them legally and politically,” said Vinod Pandey, senior party leader and close aide of Soren.