Jharkhand Mining Scam: CM Hemant Soren To Appear Before ED Today, JMM Braces Up For Showdown In State Capital Ranchi
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren will appear before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for questioning at its office in Ranchi around 11.30am today (17 November).
The ED, which is probing the Rs 1,000 crore illegal mining scam in the state, has summoned Soren to appear before its sleuths after his alleged involvement in the scam surfaced with the arrest of Soren's close aide Pankaj Mishra.
The ED arrested Mishra on 19 July, and a raid on his residence led to the recovery of a sealed envelope containing a passbook and two cheque books of an account in the name of Hemant Soren in the Ranchi branch of a public sector bank.
The cheque books had two cheques signed by Soren and 31 blank cheques. This, say ED officers, is evidence of Soren's involvement in the mining scam (read more about this here).
The ED had summoned Soren on 3 November, but he skipped it, citing prior commitments. Fresh summons were issued last week.
Soren held a series of meetings with MLAs and leaders of his party, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), throughout Wednesday (16 November). All the MLAs, including ministers, will gather at the CM's residence on Thursday morning and stay there as long as Soren remains in the ED office.
But the JMM has bussed in thousands of supporters and activists from different parts of the state to Ranchi. They will hit the streets of the state capital late Thursday morning and are likely to congregate around the ED office.
Fearing trouble, the ED had asked the state police chief for adequate security. A large police posse has already been posted around the ED office.
But the police bandobast will not be enough in case the JMM workers and supporters, who have been hyped up by their party leaders, get aggressive.
State administration officials fear that in case the ED takes any coercive action against Soren, trouble could break out in Ranchi. The huge mass of JMM workers could go berserk and attack not only the ED office but also the offices of the BJP and the homes and properties of BJP leaders.
That's because senior leaders of the JMM, as well as its ally, the Congress, have been accusing the BJP of a witch-hunt against Soren and have been urging their workers to attack BJP leaders.
"The situation is quite volatile and if the ED arrests Soren, trouble is most likely to break out in Ranchi. We fear attacks and have apprised the state administration. But the police are biased," a senior BJP leader told Swarajya.
ED sources said that there is strong evidence suggesting the involvement of Soren in the scam. The ED claims to have gathered evidence that Soren is a beneficiary of the scam.
Apart from Pankaj Mishra, the ED has also arrested others close to Soren and reportedly recovered a lot of incriminating evidence.
ED officials told Swarajya that the agency would not be cowed down by any threats or shows of strength.
"We go strictly by evidence and results of our investigations, including interrogations. External factors like demonstrations by political parties do not affect our decisions about arresting or not arresting an accused," said a senior ED officer.
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