RANCHI: Amid heavy security cover, ED officials on Wednesday began questioning Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren at his residence here for the second time in less than a fortnight, in a money laundering case linked to an alleged land scam.
Legislators of the ruling JMM-led coalition have been gathering outside since morning.
Soren had earlier been questioned in connection with the case on January 20. The interrogation that day was incomplete, an official said.
The 48-year-old executive president of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) ended the suspense over his whereabouts on Tuesday, as he reached his official residence in Ranchi and chaired a meeting of his alliance MLAs. The CM's wife Kalpana Soren, who is not a legislator, was also present at the meeting.
The lawmakers expressed solidarity with the Hemant Soren government at the meeting, and also signed a letter of support without any name, as speculations are rife that the chief minister's wife will be handed over the reins in the event of his arrest.
However, one JMM MLA who was conspicuous by her absence at the meeting was Sita Soren, widow of Durga Soren, the elder brother of the CM. Sita Soren represents the Jama constituency in the assembly.
"A power tussle is evident within the family, but on the issue of any threat to the government, they are all united. The CM's brother Basan Soren, also a legislator, has spoken in his favour, too," an MLA, who requested anonymity, said.
In an email to the ED on Sunday, Soren had alleged that its actions were "motivated by political agenda" to disrupt the state government's functioning, and claimed that the insistence to record his statement again on or before January 31 "reeked of malice".
The probe agency has seized Rs 36 lakh, an SUV and some "incriminating" documents during search operations at his house in Delhi on Monday.
Soren is being questioned as part of a probe into a "huge racket of illegal change of ownership of land by the mafia" in Jharkhand, ED officials have said.
Meanwhile, prohibitory orders were clamped in key areas of Ranchi, and a three-member team has been formed to oversee the law and order situation in the Jharkhand capital.
According to an official release, the prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC are effective from 9 am to 10 pm within a radius of 100 metres at key locations, including the CM House, Raj Bhavan and the ED office at Doranda.
Security personnel escorting the ED officials are equipped with high-resolution body cameras to keep track of the activities around Soren's residence, amid heavy police deployment there.
As part of the restrictions, demonstrations, rallies or meetings cannot be held in and around these areas.