Embattled Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren appeared before the Enforcement Directorate officials on Wednesday in Ranchi for questioning in a money laundering case. At the same time, he filed a complaint against ED officials under Prevention of SC/ST Atrocities Act, alleging that he was being subjected to “mental, psychological and emotional harm” by instituting “false, malicious and vexatious criminal proceedings” against him and his family members through “fabricated evidence”. Hemant Soren had resurfaced on Tuesday morning after remaining incommunicado for more than 40 hours. He and his wife Kalpana attended meetings of party legislators to chalk out a plan to counter any political fallout in case the chief minister was arrested under Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
MLAs belonging to his party Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and allies RJD and Congress, signed a resolution extending full support to the chief minister. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 have been clamped near the chief minister’s residence and Raj Bhavan, and central paramilitary forces have been deployed near the ED office, where Soren appeared for questioning. Hemant Soren has realized that he can be arrested by ED, because, simply put, he has no valid replies to questions being posed by ED officials. He had not been going outside Jharkhand to avoid arrest, but when he reached Delhi in a chartered plane on Monday, there were speculations that he came to the national capital to strike a “deal” with BJP leaders. He was expecting to cross over to the BJP camp to save himself from going to jail.
In Delhi, top BJP leadership refused to grant him an audience and Soren realized that if he returned to his Delhi residence, he would be arrested by ED. Instead of returning to his official residence, Soren secretly left for Ranchi. The most surprising part of this “lost and found” episode is how the chief minister of a state, having Z-plus security, slipped out of the national capital, keeping others in the dark. How can it be possible that his security officials stood idle when the chief minister gave them the slip? Hemant Soren did it and his dramatic resurfacing in Ranchi shows that he wants to convey that it would not be easy to arrest him. Hemant Soren is trying to convince his allies to accept his wife Kalpana Soren as chief minister, in case he is arrested. This, however, will not be easy. Already, there are rumblings in the Soren family over making Kalpana Soren the chief minister.
Reports say, Hemant Soren’s brother Basant Soren is aspiring to become the CM. He is the MLA from Dumka. Hemant Soren’s ‘bhabhi’ (sister-in-law) Sita Soren is the MLA from Jama constituency. Some party MLAs are also siding with his brother and sister-in-law. If Hemant Soren tries to install his wife Kalpana as CM, his brother Basant may spoil the game, and cross over to form a government with BJP support. In the present Jharkhand assembly, JMM has 29 MLAs, and its allies Congress has 17, RJD and CPI-ML have one MLA each. In the opposition, BJP has 26 MLAs, AJSU has 3, NCP(AP) has one and there is one independent MLA. The jury is still out on who will become the next CM of Jharhand.