An Enforcement Directorate (ED) team conducted a visit to the residence of Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren in Delhi on Monday, as part of a money laundering investigation linked to an alleged land fraud case. The team spent over 12 hours at the location, amidst claims that Soren was "missing" and unresponsive to the federal agency's attempts to contact him.
While the official sources suggested Soren's unavailability, a family member contested this narrative, asserting that there were repeated communications with the ED, expressing willingness to cooperate and record the statement on January 31, 2024, at his Ranchi residence.
The Chief Minister, who had left Ranchi for Delhi on January 27 for personal reasons, faced accusations from the Jharkhand BJP unit of being "absconding" for the last 18 hours. They urged Governor C P Radhakrishnan to intervene, citing the credibility and reputation of Jharkhand being at stake.
Previously questioned by the ED on January 20, Soren received a fresh summons for further clarification on either January 29 or January 31. While he communicated with the agency, the date and time for the questioning were not confirmed. In an email to the ED on Sunday, Soren accused the agency of having a "political agenda" and emphasized that the insistence on recording his statement by January 31 seemed malicious.
The ED team, accompanied by Delhi Police personnel, remained at Soren's residence for an extended period. They briefly inspected a parked BMW car before returning inside. The ED affirmed that they would stay at the residence until Soren's return, with authorities also monitoring the Delhi airport.
While the Chief Minister's office remained tight-lipped, Governor Radhakrishnan expressed vigilance over the situation, highlighting the constitutional responsibility to observe the state's political landscape.
Security was heightened in Ranchi, with protests by JMM workers condemning the ED's actions. The BJP questioned Soren's whereabouts, alleging negligence in the Chief Minister's security.
Jharkhand Congress president Rajesh Thakur viewed the situation as a designed conspiracy to create confusion about Soren's location, suggesting attempts to hint at the imposition of President's Rule. The Governor dismissed such speculations, emphasizing that political parties should refrain from involvement and affirmed that no one is above the law.
The money laundering probe revolves around an illegal change of land ownership in Jharkhand, involving a significant mafia racket. The ED has previously arrested 14 individuals in connection with the case, including a senior IAS officer. The unprecedented situation has left uncertainty about the Chief Minister's whereabouts and the evolving political landscape in the state.
(With Agency Inputs)