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Ruling JMM convenes meeting of MLAs ahead of Jharkhand CM's questioning by ED

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Ranchi, Jan 20 (PTI) The ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) on Saturday convened a meeting of all its legislators at Chief Minister's House here ahead of Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren's questioning by the Enforcement Directorate here in a money laundering case linked to an alleged land scam.

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The ED officials are scheduled to visit the CM House around noon for questioning in connection with the case.

Soren, 48, who is also the executive president of JMM, had skipped seven earlier summonses by the ED and finally gave his consent to attend the questioning after the probe agency summoned him for the eighth time.

"We have convened a meeting of JMM legislators at CM residence before the questioning to discuss the situation. Any strategy about the future course of action will be made based on the outcome of the ED questioning," JMM general secretary and spokesperson, Supriyo Bhattacharya told PTI.

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About the protests by tribals against ED summons to the CM, he said it was spontaneous and the party had taken no call on this.

Meanwhile, Congress Jharkhand President Rajesh Thakur said that the party stood behind the CM and expressed solidarity with him.

"Congress MLAs will also gather at the CM residence to express their solidarity. We stand united," Thakur told PTI.

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JMM's Tamar legislatory, Vikas Kumar Munda said that the legislators have been called for the meeting.

He, however, said: "I am not aware of the agenda of today's meeting.

Another JMM MLA Lobin Hembrom said he would not be able to attend the meeting as he is unwell.

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Another MLA of the party Mathura Prasad Mahto said he was not in Ranchi and was in Vellore for a health check-up.

Social Welfare Minister Joba Manjhi, Transport Minister Champai Soren and legislators Stephen Marandi and Sudivya Kumar did not respond to the calls.

Meanwhile, heavy security arrangements have been made at CM's residence and other key points here.

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The investigation pertains to a "huge racket of illegal change of ownership of land by the mafia" in Jharkhand, according to the ED.

The agency has so far arrested 14 people in the case, including 2011-batch IAS officer Chhavi Ranjan who has served as the director of the state Social Welfare Department and deputy commissioner of Ranchi.

Soren had filed a petition before the Supreme Court and then the Jharkhand High Court, seeking protection from the ED action and terming the summonses "unwarranted". Both courts dismissed his petitions.

Jharkhand Governor CP Radhakrishnan earlier this week had said the ED is doing its duty and the CM should provide the right answers to the probe agency.

In the 81-member Jharkhand Assembly, the ruling coalition holds 46 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 RG

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