India opposition leader arrested over corruption claims

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Arvind Kejriwal, a social activist and anti-corruption campaigner, speaks during an interview with Reuters on the outskirts of New Delhi in 2012Image source, Reuters

Prominent opposition politician and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has been arrested by India’s financial crime agency, his party said.

The arrest is in connection with corruption allegations relating to the city’s policies over alcohol sales.

Mr Kejriwal and his party, the Aadmi Party (AAP), deny any wrongdoing and say the case is politically motivated.

His arrest comes weeks before voting begins in the country’s general election.

Police surrounded Mr Kejriwal’s home on Thursday as it was searched by members of the Enforcement Directorate agency.

The case is over allegations that an alcohol sale policy implemented by the Delhi government in 2022 – which ended the government monopoly – gave undue advantages to private retailers.

Mr Kejriwal has ignored numerous summonses in the case.

The AAP has accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of playing “dirty politics” and says it will seek an urgent hearing at the Supreme Court to secure Mr Kejriwal’s release.

India’s general election will take place in seven phases over April and May, with the results to be announced on 4 June.

Ahead of the vote, opposition parties have accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP government of misusing government agencies for political ends.

Dilip Pandey, AAP lawmaker and chief whip in the Delhi assembly, told the BBC the arrest shows that Mr Modi “is scared of Kejriwal”.

“They can arrest Kejriwal but not his thoughts. We will continue to fight his arrest and the unjust policies of Mr Modi’s government,” Mr Pandey said.

Two other AAP leaders, Sanjay Singh and Manish Sisodia, were arrested last year in the same case.

They are among several prominent opposition leaders subject to criminal investigations many say are politically motivated.

Rahul Gandhi, the most prominent member of the opposition Congress party, was convicted of criminal libel last year after a complaint by a member of the BJP.

His two year prison sentence saw him disqualified from parliament for a time until the verdict was suspended by a higher court, but this has raised concerns over the state if democracy in India.

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