ED Quizzes Hooda, Lalu, Finds Soren Missing

The Asian Age With Agency Inputs  | AMRESH SRIVASTAVA

India, All India

On January 19, the Central agency issued a fresh summons to Lalu and his son Tejashwi

Enforcement Directorate. (Representational Image)

NEW DELHI: In a sweeping move against Opposition leaders, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday interrogated former Haryana chief minister and senior Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda in a money laundering case related to a land deal.

Simultaneously in Patna, the agency questioned former Bihar chief minister Lalu Yadav in a PMLA case linked to the land-for-jobs scam case. The ED also visited the residence of Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren in connection with a separate case related to land fraud in the state.

In the morning, the Central agency quizzed Mr Hooda over alleged irregularities in land acquisition at Manesar during 2004-07 with the alleged connivance of senior government functionaries and bureaucrats for over six hours. Earlier on January 17, he appeared before the ED sleuths and recorded his statement in this case.

A day after Rashtriya Janata Dal, the largest constituent in the mahagathbandhan, lost power in Bihar, party supremo Lalu was questioned by the ED for more than nine hours in the land-for-jobs case. The 75-year-old leader reached the agency's office at around 11 am and was relieved around 8.30 pm.

Rajya Sabha MP and his daughter Misha Bharti, who is also a co-accused in the case, accompanied the leader to the office. A large number of RJD workers also gathered outside the agency's office and shouted slogans against the Central government.

On January 19, the Central agency issued a fresh summons to Lalu and his son Tejashwi. The notice was physically handed over at the residence of Lalu’s wife and former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi in Patna. The summons asked both the RJD leaders to appear before it on January 29 and 30. Tejashwi is likely to appear before the agency on January 30 at Patna office, sources said.

In response to the summons, Ms Bharti said that this was not a new thing. “This greeting card is being sent to those who are not coming with them. Whenever any agency calls our family, we go there and cooperate with them and answer their questions," she said.

"Whenever any agency calls our family members for questioning, we go there, cooperate with them and answer all their queries," Ms Bharti added.

"Everyone knows about the health condition of my father, he can't even walk without support. Despite that, ED officials did not allow any assistant to enter their office and accompany him. It's inhuman behaviour by ED officials...shame on you (ED officials) and your boss (top ED officials),"  Lalu’s younger daughter Rohini  Acharya wrote on X in Hindi.

"This is not an ED summon, but a BJP summon... This will go on till 2024. Till then please do not call it ED summons... Why should we be scared?," RJD MP Manoj Jha said.

In New Delhi, an ED team visited the residence of Mr Soren to question him in connection with a money laundering investigation in an alleged land fraud case and camped there for over 13 hours

Official sources claimed Mr Soren was "missing" and could not be contacted by the federal agency but a family member alleged that a "false" narrative was being set to "delegitimise" the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader's position.

Officials of the federal probe agency accompanied by Delhi Police personnel reached the 5/1 Shanti Niketan building in South Delhi around 9 am, while a large number of mediapersons stood outside.

Meanwhile, the JMM leader who had left for Delhi from Ranchi on January 27 night has sent an email to the agency in which he has agreed to a fresh round of questioning on January 31 at his Ranchi residence around 1 pm.

The ED had questioned Mr Soren at his official residence in Ranchi on January 20 and had issued a fresh summons asking him to confirm his availability for questioning on either January 29 or January 31, the sources said.

He had sent a communication to the ED for further questioning but had not confirmed the date and time for questioning, according to the sources.

While the chief minister's office was tight-lipped on the development, Jharkhand governor C.P. Radhakrishnan said he was keeping a watch on the situation in the state in the wake of the ED summons to the CM.

"I am keeping a watch on the overall situation as the custodian of the Constitution. It is the job of the governor, I am doing it.  We will cross the bridge when it comes," he told media.

In Ranchi, security was tightened at the CM House, Raj Bhavan and Central government offices as visuals from the south Delhi house of Mr Soren flashed through the day. A massive rally was also taken out by the JMM workers in Ranchi accusing the ED of targeting Mr Soren, also the executive president of the ruling JMM.

About the possibility of imposition of the President's Rule in the state, the governor said it was just "guesswork" at present, adding that political parties should not get involved in it.

A top Jharkhand government official said, "It is an unprecedented situation here. No one knows the whereabouts of the chief minister."