Ranchi, Jan 20 (PTI) Sleuths of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) began questioning Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren at his official residence here on Saturday afternoon in connection with a money laundering case linked to an alleged land scam.
Soren, 48, who is also the executive president of the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), had earlier skipped seven summonses by the ED. He finally gave his consent after the probe agency summoned him for the eighth time.
The ED sleuths reached Soren’s residence around 1 pm, an official said.
The CISF, tasked with the security of the ED officials, are using high-resolution body cameras to keep track of activities around Soren’s residence, he said.
CRPF personnel have also been deployed in large numbers at the spot.
Meanwhile, the JMM convened a meeting of its legislators at Soren’s residence.
"The ED is questioning the CM... We are also holding our meeting... Any strategy about the future course of action will be made based on the outcome of the questioning," JMM general secretary and spokesperson Supriyo Bhattacharya told PTI.
Jamtara MLA Irfan Ansari, who met Soren before being quizzed by the ED officials, said the chief minister asked party workers to be patient.
"The CM, after seeing me, turned emotional and asked us to have patience,” Ansari said.
Asked about the protest by tribals against the ED summons to Soren, Bhattacharya said it was spontaneous, and the JMM had not taken any call on that.
JMM workers armed with bows and arrows were reportedly spotted around 100 metres from the CM’s residence.
Congress’ Jharkhand president Rajesh Thakur said that party MLAs were also present to express solidarity with Soren.
Jharkhand Advocate General Rajiv Ranjan, DGP Ajay Kumar Singh, Deputy Commissioner, Ranchi, Rahul Kumar Sinha and SSP Chandan Kumar Sinha are also at Soren’s residence in view of the ED questioning.
The investigation pertains to a "huge racket of illegal change of ownership of land by the mafia" in Jharkhand, according to the central probe agency.
It has so far arrested 14 people in the case, including 2011-batch IAS officer Chhavi Ranjan, who served as the director of the state’s Social Welfare Department and deputy commissioner of Ranchi.
Soren had filed a petition before the Supreme Court and the Jharkhand High Court, seeking protection from the ED action, terming the summonses "unwarranted". Both the courts subsequently dismissed his petitions.
Jharkhand Governor C P Radhakrishnan had earlier this week said that the ED was doing its duty and Soren should provide the “right answers” to the probe agency.
In the 81-member Jharkhand Assembly, the ruling coalition holds 47 seats, including 29 MLAs from the JMM, 17 from the Congress, and one each from the RJD and the Communist Party of India (Marxists-Leninist). PTI SAN/NAM RBT