Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren is being questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a case of alleged money laundering through illegal mining. Before leaving for the ED office, Soren said that the probe is a part of a larger conspiracy by the BJP to destabilise his government.
Security at the ED's regional office in Ranchi has been beefed up. Barricades have been set up on all roads leading to the interrogation venue.
The Central Reserve Police Force and other central security forces have been deployed outside the office.
Thousands of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha workers from different parts of the state have arrived in Ranchi to express their solidarity with the CM, raising slogans against the ED's action.
The district administration has made arrangements to prevent the protesters from reaching the office. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 have been clamped from Hinoo Chowk to the airport area.
Soren reached the agency's regional office on Ranchi's Airport Road on Thursday morning, following the summon.
While addressing a press conference ahead of appearing before the ED, Soren claimed that the allegations levelled at him of illegal mining were baseless.
He questioned the ED's statement on a scam of Rs 1,000 crore taking place in one district, saying that the entire state does not earn this amount of money from stone chips in a whole year.
He attacked Governor Ramesh Bais, accusing the latter of protecting the parties engaged in conspiratorial politics and showed his disapproval about Bais' statement regarding his pending decision on the political crisis in the state.
Soren claimed that the ED summon and raids by the IT and Central agencies on the premises of the ruling party's MLAs started soon after Bais' statement.
Many senior officers including the ED's Joint Director Kapil Raj have arrived for the questioning.
Pankaj Mishra, a close aide of the CM, has been arrested in this case. In the chargesheet filed against Mishra, the ED has detailed the political patronage he received.
The ED found an envelope at Pankaj Mishra's house which contained a cheque book linked to Soren's bank account.
According to the ED's chargesheet, the officers were prevented from taking action against Mishra by using political clout in the name of the CM.
Besides Pankaj Mishra, Prem Prakash and Kolkata-based businessman Amit Agarwal have also been arrested. They gave information about their connection with the CM during interrogation.
Earlier, the ED arrested Jharkhand's mining secretary Pooja Singhal for money laundering through the MNREGA scam.
Rs 17.49 crore in cash was recovered from the premises of chartered accountant Suman Kumar, associated with her. It was later revealed during interrogation that the amount included the money received from illegal mining.