Jharkhand chief minister-designate Hemant Soren called on Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her residence in Delhi on Wednesday to invite her to his swearing-in ceremony in Ranchi on December 29 after a three-party coalition led by his Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) swept to power in the eastern state this week. Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was also present at the meeting.
Soren, who returned to Ranchi in the night, will in the next few days hold discussions with the Congress leadership on government formation and distribution of portfolios.
The alliance of JMM, Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) ousted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from power in a five-phase election whose outcome was declared on Monday, together winning 47 seats in the 81-member assembly. Chief minister Raghubar Das lost election from the Jamshedpur East constituency, where he was defeated by BJP rebel Saryu Rai.
Under the rules, Jharkhand can have 12 ministers and the Congress is likely to demand five berths. “Our argument is simple. Since the chief minister is from the JMM, we should get five ministerial berths,” said a Congress leader familiar with the development.
Asked if the Congress would ask for the deputy chief minister’s post, the leader quoted above said that it depends on the approval of the party high command. “If the high command gives us the nod, we will certainly demand the post,” he added.
Soren told reporters after the meeting that he invited both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to his oath-taking ceremony. Rahul Gandhi may attend the ceremony, he added.
Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi had skipped the swearing-in ceremony of Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray as Maharashtra chief minister on November 28.
The JMM leader also said that he will invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah, apart from state chief ministers and other regional leaders, to the swearing-in.
Jharkhand governor Droupadi Murmu invited Soren to form the government after he submitted to her a letter of support of 50 legislators on Tuesday.
The JMM won 30 seats, the Congress 16 and RJD one seat in the election. The Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), with three legislators, has extended “unconditional support” to Soren.
The BJP won 25 seats and its former alliance partner, the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) party two.
Soren had already spoken to Gandhi, but personally wanted to invite her to the ceremony. He also wanted to thank the Congress party and its leadership for their support in helping form a coalition government in the state. Congress party’s Jharkhand in-charge RPN Singh accompanied Soren to Delhi.