Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, declared “missing” by the BJP after Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials failed to locate him for over 24 hours, surfaced in Ranchi today. Mr Soren, who was last seen in Delhi on Sunday night, left his home in Ranchi today for a meeting with MLAs from the ruling coalition in Jharkhand.
Reappearance of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader comes amid frenetic political developments in Ranchi and Delhi. ED officials had reached his Delhi address yesterday to question him in a money laundering case, but could not locate him. The agency seized Rs 36 lakh in cash and Mr Soren’s BMW car, but he was not found at his Delhi homes or at Jharkhand Bhavan in Delhi.
Amid the development, the BJP started claiming that the Chief Minister was “on the run”. State BJP chief Babulal Marandi also put out an advertisement, seeking information about Mr Soren and announcing a cash prize of Rs 11,000 for credible information.
The JMM, however, had maintained that they are in touch with the Chief Minister. JMM ally Congress alleged that the BJP’s “missing” claim is a conspiracy to create a situation to impose President’s rule in the state. Governor CP Radhakrishnan had said that he is keeping a close watch on the situation. “It is the job of the Governor, I am doing it. We will cross the bridge when it comes,” he told reporters, adding that “no one is above the law”.
Meanwhile, all MLAs of the ruling alliance – comprising JMM, Congress and RJD – have been asked to stay in Ranchi, sparking speculation over what comes next.
BJP MP and Jharkhand leader Dr Nishikant Dubey has alleged that a plan to name Mr Soren’s wife Kalpana as Chief Minister is underway. “Hemant Soren ji has called his own, JMM, Congress and allied MLAs to reach Ranchi with their luggage and bags. According to the information, there is a proposal to make Kalpana Soren ji (Hemant Soren’s wife) Chief Minister,” he claimed in a post on X.
Mr Soren is being investigated in connection with an alleged racket of illegal change of land ownership by mafia in Jharkhand. The ED has arrested 14 people in the case so far.
Accusing the BJP-led Centre of using probe agencies for political goals, the JMM has questioned why a fresh summons was issued days after Mr Soren was questioned on January 20. They also hit out at ED for reaching the Chief Minister’s Delhi residence with armed personnel yesterday, even after he had told them that he would be available for questioning on Wednesday.