Jharkhand agriculture minister Yogendra Sao had formed a Maoist organisation, used to regularly fund it and bail out its cadres in crises, five arrested members of the outfit have told the police.
The five activists of Jharkhand Tigers were arrested on Tuesday from a house in Chumba village, about 120km north of Ranchi.
During interrogation, the arrested “miscreants disclosed their close association with the minister”, Hazaribagh superintendent of police Manoj Kaushik said.
“We are verifying the authenticity of their claims. It would be too early to draw a conclusion," he added.
It was learnt that Tigers’ chief Rajkumar Gupta told the police that Sao used to “support them in crises in several ways” besides providing funds.
Sao, a Congress leader, denied having links with the outfit and termed the allegations as a “conspiracy aimed at defaming him”.
“I am paying a price for raising my voice against coal thefts and sand auctions to multinational companies,” he told HT.
The minister said he was ready for an investigation by any agency except the Jharkhand police.
"Hazaribagh police have been targeting me for long. I have lodged several complaints against Manoj Kaushik for acting at the behest of BJP leaders," he added.
While the BJP demanded Sao’s resignation, state Congress president Sukdeo Bhagat said he would be talking to the minister soon and set up an inquiry committee if the need arises.
State Congress secretary Anadhi Brahm said the allegations are politically motivated.
Intelligence officials believe that Maoists influence voters’ choices during assembly and parliamentary polls in the state, which had given rise to symbiotic relationships between politicians and the rebels in the past.