In a seismic — but long-brewing — development in Jharkhand politics, Hemant Soren has been arrested in a money laundering case after resigning as the chief minister.
Top Enforcement Directorate officials told NDTV that Mr Soren refused to sign his arrest memo until he submitted his resignation to Jharkhand Governor CP Radhakrishnan. They said the agency’s officials took the chief minister to the Raj Bhavan to resign.
The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader was then taken to the ED office in Ranchi for questioning and formally arrested. Before his resignation, he was questioned at his residence in the city for at least six hours in connection with the money laundering case linked to an alleged Rs 600-crore land scam.
While Mr Soren’s arrest is not unexpected, the person chosen to take over as chief minister has taken many by surprise. Contrary to the earlier speculation, Mr Soren will not be replaced by his wife Kalpana Soren but by senior JMM leader and transport minister in the outgoing cabinet, Champai Soren.
The ED’s arrest of Mr Soren on Wednesday came two days after a search operation at his Delhi residence on Monday. While the agency’s officials had not found the JMM leader there – leading to jibes from the BJP of him being ‘on the run’ – they had seized Rs 36 lakh in cash and a BMW car which, they claimed, belonged to him.
Earlier in the day, Mr Soren had filed a case against senior officers of the Enforcement Directorate’s Ranchi office under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in connection with Monday’s operation. In his complaint, the JMM leader, who belongs to a scheduled tribe, claimed the action harassed and maligned him and his entire community.
Mr Soren also said that he was not the owner of the BMW or the cash that was seized by the ED and that the agency’s officers had leaked “selective misinformation”.