RANCHI: JMM executive president Hemant Soren is likely to return as chief minister of Jharkhand for the third time following consensus among legislators of the party-led alliance in the state, sources said on Wednesday. Leaders and MLAs of the alliance during a meeting at Chief Minister Champai Soren’s residence here unanimously decided to elect Hemant Soren as JMM legislature party leader, they said. “A decision was taken in the meeting to replace Champai Soren with Hemant Soren,” a party source told PTI.

If sworn in, he will be the 13th chief minister of Jharkhand, which was carved out of Bihar on November 15, 2000. Congress’s Jharkhand in-charge Ghulam Ahmad Mir and its state president Rajesh Thakur also attended the meeting, besides Hemant Soren’s brother Basant and wife Kalpana. Hemant Soren was released from jail on June 28 after nearly five months, as the high court granted him bail in a money laundering case linked to an alleged land scam. He had resigned as the CM before his arrest on January 31.

Meanwhile, in a post on X, BJP MP Nishkant Dubey said: “The Champai Soren era is over in Jharkhand. In the family-oriented party, people outside the family have no political future. I wish the chief minister drew inspiration from Bhagwan Birsa Munda and stood up against the corrupt Hemant Soren ji.” The sources said Champai Soren, who had taken oath as the 12th chief minister of Jharkhand on February 2 after Hemant Soren’s arrest, may resign from the post soon.

Against 12 berths, the Jharkhand Cabinet at present has a strength of 10. Earlier, on February 16, a total of eight MLAs were inducted in the cabinet in addition to three on February 2, including Champai Soren. Of the 11, Rural Development and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Alamgir Alam tendered his resignation on June 11 after his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case.

After the Lok Sabha elections, the strength of the JMM-led alliance in the state has reduced to 45 MLAs – JMM-27, Congress-17 and RJD-1. Two JMM MLAs, Nalin Soren and Joba Majhi, are now parliamentarians, while Jama legislator Sita Soren resigned to contest the general elections on a BJP ticket. The JMM expelled two more legislators – Bishunpur MLA Chamra Linda and Boriyo MLA Lobin Hembrom – from the party, but they are yet to resign from the assembly.

Likewise, the BJP’s strength in the assembly has reduced to 24, as two of its MLAs – Dhulu Mahto (Baghmara) and Manish Jaiswal (Hazaribag) – contested the Lok Sabha elections and are now MPs. The saffron party has expelled Mandu MLA Jaiprakash Bhai Patel after he joined the Congress to contest the polls. However, Patel is yet to resign from the assembly. The current strength of the 81-member Jharkhand assembly is 76.