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Indian opposition claims ‘conspiracy’ in arrest of Delhi chief minister

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Indian opposition claims 'conspiracy' in arrest of Delhi chief minister

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been arrested in a corruption case, a move condemned by his party as a “plot” by the Narendra Modi government to target the opposition ahead of next month’s elections.

Kejriwal, chief of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and chief minister of Delhi since 2015, was arrested from his home on Thursday evening by around a dozen officers of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), an investigation agency under control of the central government. .

The case against Kejriwal relates to an ongoing investigation by the ED, which has accused several senior AAP politicians in Delhi of corruption and taking bribes as part of a policy of alcohol licenses.

This is the first time in independent India that a sitting chief minister has been arrested.

Atishi Singh, AAP minister in the Delhi government, called the arrest a “conspiracy by the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.

She said: “Mr Kejriwal is not just a man, he is an idea. If you think that arresting a certain Kejriwal can put an end to the idea, you are wrong.

Aam Aadmi Party members protest as officers arrive to arrest Arvind Kejriwal at his residence in Delhi. Photography: AP

The arrest came less than a month before Indian elections, where Modi and his BJP government are seeking a third term.

Although relatively new and small compared to other opposition parties, the AAP, which grew out of an anti-corruption movement, has won national elections in the capital, Delhi, and more recently in Punjab. Kejriwal has openly declared his intention to make AAP a fully national party to challenge the might of the BJP and he has become a thorn in the side of the Modi government.

All major opposition parties have condemned Kejriwal’s arrest. Rahul Gandhi, the former leader of the main opposition Congress party, said “a scared dictator wants to create a dead democracy,” referring to Modi.

Shashi Tharoor, another Congress MP, said it was “clear that a systematic effort is underway to subvert Indian democracy in our general elections.”

Earlier this year, Kejriwal was named as a “conspirator” in what is widely known as the Delhi liquor scam, and he was accused of being involved in money laundering. In recent weeks, he had refused several summons for questioning, alleging that the case was politically motivated and was being pursued by the ED “at the behest of the BJP”.

Manish Sisodia, who was Kejriwal’s deputy in the AAP government in Delhi, has been in jail for over a year in the same case, and several others have been arrested in recent weeks.

On Thursday evening, police officers showed up at Kejriwal’s residence in Delhi with an arrest warrant and began conducting a search, before arresting him and taking him to the ED office.

The party vehemently asserted that Kejriwal would not resign and would remain chief minister and “run the government from prison”.

In a statement on X, the party said: “The time has come for a total revolution. It is time to overthrow the dictatorial government that is trampling the country.” The party said it immediately approached the Supreme Court challenging Kejriwal’s arrest.

Delhi BJP president Virendra Sachdeva welcomed the arrest, saying “the truth must prevail and Arvind Kejriwal must be punished for his sins.”

The move comes as the BJP is accused of accelerating the crackdown on political opponents and creating an uneven playing field for the upcoming elections. On Thursday, the Congress party claimed that the BJP government had frozen its bank accounts in connection with a tax case, disrupting its ability to campaign.

“We have no money to campaign, we cannot support our candidates. Our ability to fight elections has been undermined,” Gandhi said. “The idea that India is a democracy is a lie. There is no democracy in India today.

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