Dramatic developments are taking place in Delhi and Jharkhand capital Ranchi as Enforcement Directorate officials look to question Chief Minister Hemant Soren in a money laundering case. While official sources claim that Mr Soren is “missing” for the past 24 hours, his party Jharkhand Mukti Morcha has said the Chief Minister is safe and in touch with them.
According to ED sources, they have no information about Mr Soren’s whereabouts. The chartered plane on which he travelled from Ranchi to Delhi is parked at Delhi airport. The phones of several people part of his staff are switched off. His BMW car in Delhi has been seized by the ED. His driver has also been questioned, but to no avail. ED officials yesterday visited his homes in Delhi and the Jharkhand Bhavan, but could not find him.
Meanwhile, ED has received a letter from his office, informing that he will be available for questioning at 1 pm tomorrow.
The BJP’s Jharkhand unit has claimed that the Chief Minister is “absconding” and urged Governor CP Radhakrishnan to take note. The Governor has said he was “keeping a watch on the overall situation”. “It is the job of the Governor, I am doing it. We will cross the bridge when it comes,” he told reporters.
Jharkhand BJP president Babulal Marandi has alleged that according to some reports, Mr Soren “ran away from his Delhi home on foot late at night”.
The JMM and its ally Congress have maintained that the Chief Minister will be back to Ranchi soon and alleged that the ED moves are politically motivated. JMM has also taken out in Mr Soren’s support across Jharkhand.
“The CM went to Delhi for some personal work and he will be back. But, the ED action is uncalled for and unconstitutional. It seems that the move is politically motivated,” said JMM general secretary and spokesperson Supriyo Bhattacharya.
Jharkhand Congress president Rajesh Thakur alleged that the “confusion” being created over Mr Soren’s location is part of a “well-designed conspiracy”. “Attempts are being made to create a situation for the imposition of President’s rule in the state. People are spreading rumours that the CM is missing,” Mr Thakur said.
Meanwhile, all MLAs of the JMM-led ruling alliance have been asked to remain in Jharkhand for a meeting on Tuesday. JMM general secretary Vinod Kumar Singh told news agency PTI that the MLAs “will discuss future course of action”.
BJP MP and Jharkhand leader Nishikant Dubey has claimed that plans are afoot to name Mr Soren’s wife Kalpana as the Chief Minister. “Hemant Soren ji has called his own, JMM, Congress and allied MLAs to reach Ranchi with their luggage and bags. According to the information, there is a proposal to make Kalpana Soren ji (Hemant Soren’s wife) the Chief Minister. The CM has said that fearing an ED interrogation, they will reach Ranchi by road and announce their arrival,” he claimed.
Mr Soren is being investigated in connection with an alleged racket of illegal change of land ownership by mafia in Jharkhand. The ED has arrested 14 people in the case so far.
The agency had earlier recorded Mr Soren’s statement on January 20. In a statement, the JMM has questioned why a fresh summons was issued for Mr Soren days after he was questioned. It has also hit out at the agency for reaching the Chief Minister’s Delhi residence with armed personnel yesterday even after he had told them that he would be available for questioning on Wednesday.
“Besides the Chief Minister, is this not an insult of the 3.5 people of the state? Are institutions like the ED now just puppets in the hands of the BJP? Will they be used to form or topple state governments? Can the Centre do anything to Chief Ministers when they are in Delhi?” the JMM has asked.