Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal challenges arrest ahead of Indian elections

A senior Indian opposition politician appeared in court on Friday to protest his arrest in a case that supporters say is aimed at squeezing out challengers to Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of next month’s election.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of the capital Delhi, a key leader of an opposition alliance formed to challenge Modi at the polls, was detained on Thursday in connection with a long-running corruption probe .

He is one of several leaders of the group under criminal investigation, with one of his colleagues describing his arrest as a “political conspiracy” orchestrated by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Kejriwal was escorted into a court in the capital by officials from India’s main financial crimes agency, the Enforcement Directorate, where he applied for bail while the case was heard.

His legal team initially sought to challenge the legality of his detention in the Supreme Court, but Kejriwal’s lawyer Shadan Farasat told AFP they would challenge his remand in lower courts.

Hundreds of supporters of Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) took to the streets on Friday to condemn the leader’s arrest, and police dispersed a group of protesters who tried to block a busy traffic intersection.

Several demonstrators were detained, including Delhi Education Minister Atish Marina Singh and Health Minister Saurabh Bhardwaj, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

Small rallies in support of Kejriwal were also held in several other Indian cities.

Kejriwal’s government was accused of corruption when it implemented a policy in 2021 to liberalize alcohol sales and gave away lucrative government stakes in the industry.

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The policy was revoked the following year, but subsequent investigations into alleged corruption in the allocation of licenses led to the imprisonment of two senior allies of Kejriwal.

Kejriwal, 55, has served as chief minister for nearly a decade and began his tenure as a staunch anti-corruption crusader. He has refused multiple summonses from the Enforcement Directorate for questioning as part of the investigation.

Education Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said Kejriwal has not resigned from his post.

“We have made it clear from the beginning that Arvind Kejriwal will run the government from jail if required,” she told reporters.

“The Decline of Democracy”

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, a member of the opposition group, said Kejriwal’s arrest “smacks of a desperate witch hunt”.

“Not a single BJP leader has faced scrutiny or arrest, exposing their abuse of power and the rot of democracy,” he said.

Modi’s political opponents and international rights groups have long sounded the alarm about India’s shrinking democratic space.

The US democracy think tank Freedom House said this year that the BJP was “increasingly using government institutions to target political opponents”.

Rahul Gandhi, the most prominent member of the opposition Congress party and a scion of a dynasty that has dominated Indian politics for decades, was found guilty of criminal defamation last year after a complaint from a member of Modi’s party.

He was sentenced to two years in prison and was briefly disqualified from being a member of parliament until a high court suspended the sentence, but it raised further concerns about democratic norms in the world’s most populous country.

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Kejriwal and Gandhi are both members of an opposition alliance of more than two dozen political parties that is jointly campaigning for India’s national elections to be held from April to June.

But even without a criminal investigation into its most prominent leader, few expected the group to launch an attack on Modi, who remains popular a decade after taking office.

Many analysts believe Modi’s re-election is a foregone conclusion, in part because his assertive Hindu nationalist politics resonate with members of the country’s majority faith.

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By Ali Raza

I am a dedicated and skilled News Content Writer with a passion for delivering accurate and engaging stories to a diverse audience. With a solid background in journalism and a keen eye for detail, I bring a commitment to excellence and a deep understanding of the evolving media landscape.

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