Ranchi, January 31, 2024: Hemant Soren, the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, has been taken into custody by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on charges related to an alleged land scam. The arrest came moments after Soren tendered his resignation, with Transport minister Champai Soren, a seasoned leader of the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, set to take over the responsibilities.
Background of Hemant Soren’s Arrest
Hemant Soren was formally arrested later in the evening after being brought to the ED office. The arrest is connected to his alleged involvement in a land scam amounting to ₹600 crores. Soren had been evading the ED over the weekend but finally agreed to be questioned by the agency, and his statement was recorded during the interrogation.
Sources indicate that Hemant Soren discussed the matter with officials, expressing his willingness to sign the arrest memo only after stepping down from his position. According to anti-money laundering rules, a Chief Minister can be arrested if they evade summons on three occasions.
Succession Plan: Champai Soren to Step In
Following the arrest, Transport minister Champai Soren is set to step into the role of Chief Minister. Champai Soren, a veteran leader within the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, will assume the responsibilities left by Hemant Soren.
Speculations regarding Soren’s successor were initially pointing towards his wife, Kalpana Soren. However, considering the upcoming state elections in November, the ruling party had to reconsider. By-elections cannot be conducted in the last year of a state assembly’s term, making it impractical for Kalpana Soren to be elected as an MLA even if named Chief Minister.
The Land Scam Investigation
The alleged land scam involves a significant operation to manipulate ownership of government land and sell it to builders. The ED has accused 14 individuals in connection with the case, including Chhavi Ranjan, a 2011-batch IAS officer who served as the director of the state Social Welfare Department and deputy commissioner of Ranchi.
Hemant Soren has dismissed the charges against him, labeling them as part of a larger conspiracy orchestrated by the BJP. State Minister Mithilesh Thakur expressed confidence in the government’s majority and assured that it would continue despite the alleged conspiracy.
In the midst of these developments, Jharkhand braces for a change in leadership with Champai Soren taking over as the Chief Minister in the wake of Hemant Soren’s arrest. The political landscape in the state is likely to witness further shifts as investigations into the land scam unfold.