EQ quizzes Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren for nine hours, supporters lay siege to Ranchi | India News

RANCHI: The Enforcement Directorate on Thursday interrogated Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren for more than nine hours in the alleged Rs 1,000-crore stone and sand mining scam in Sahibganj, leaving the JMM-led coalition on tenterhooks and bringing thousands of agitated supporters to the state capital to protest against the BJP-led Union government and central agencies.
Soren reached the ED’s regional office around 11.50am, accompanied by his lawmaker brother Basant. The latter wasn’t allowed in. The 47-year-old CM stepped out of the office at 9.40pm and drove straight to his residence along with wife Kalpana, who had arrived there a little before 9pm.
ED officials were tight-lipped about the interrogation, but sources claimed the agency repeatedly questioned Soren’s claim that the amount of stone quarried and shipped from Sahibganj was only 20% of the nearly 9-crore metric tons mined across Jharkhand in the past couple of years.
Earlier in the day, Soren, in a press briefing, had rejected the allegations and claimed he was being framed as a part of a larger political conspiracy.
The Ranchi administration had thrown a three-tier security ring around the ED’s airport road office and deployed more than 200 policemen from the Rapid Action Force of the state police as thousands of JMM supporters gathered to express their anger against the Centre and the agencies.
Soon after Soren went in, his brother Basant said, “BJP is harassing the CM because of JMM’s growing popularity. The CM will reply to all of ED’s allegations.”
Soren’s questioning kept the incumbent Mahagathbandhan government of JMM, Congress and RJD on tenterhooks throughout Thursday as its ministers and lawmakers stayed put at the CM’s residence and kept a sharp eye on the unfolding of events. Thousands of JMM supporters also gathered in Ranchi and remained outside Soren’s home as he answered the ED’s questions.
Soren was summoned for questioning after the ED sleuths arrested his constituency representative Pankaj Mishra in July this year and found the CM’s signed cheques and passbooks in his possession. The ED claimed that Mishra controlled the illegal mining activities in Sahibganj and the proceeds of crime worth Rs 42 crore were traced to him.
Earlier in the day, the CM told reporters he was summoned immediately after governor Ramesh Bais’s “atom bomb jibe”, hinting at a political conspiracy. He said the ED was making sensational statements without doing the maths, including the fact that it would take four times the amount of stones mined in Sahibganj district to illegally amass Rs 1,000 crore. Soren sought to buttress his rebuttal with data from the state mining department.
BJP functionaries, including Godda MP Nishikant Dubey and former CM Babulal Marandi, claimed Soren’s statements reeked of fear.
JMM’s Supriyo Bhattacharya said Soren hadn’t been given any date for further questioning.

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