Tuesday, July 23, 2024

India arrests Delhi CM as crackdown on opposition parties spreads

NEW DELHI – Delhi Chief Minister and Opposition leader Arvind Kejriwal was arrested by Indian law enforcement officials on Thursday in a money laundering case. .

Kejriwal, the leader of the Aam Aadmi Party, which rules the Indian capital and the state of Punjab, is the second opposition leader to be arrested in recent weeks, after Jharkhand state chief Hemant Soran was arrested in January. Allegation of land fraud.

Since 2022, Kejriwal and his associates have been accused by the BJP of selling liquor licenses and receiving kickbacks from vendors in the capital. India's Enforcement Directorate, which investigates money laundering, has alleged evidence that Kejriwal's party received millions of dollars from the liquor arm.

Kejriwal's role and culpability in the affair remain unclear — Kejriwal has denied wrongdoing — and in recent months the opposition has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP of unfairly using federal intelligence agencies to systematically pressure political rivals — or land them in jail ahead of crucial national elections. It starts on April 19. Apart from Kejriwal, three other leaders from his party, who are seen as future challengers to the BJP in national politics, have been jailed in liquor cases in the past year.

Another opposition party, the Indian National Congress, has similarly accused the BJP of using tax agencies to paralyze its activities ahead of the upcoming elections. On Thursday, Congress president Rahul Gandhi told a news conference that for the past one month his party has not been able to get any funds, or “even buy a train ticket, because its bank accounts have been frozen by the government. Part of a years-old tax case.”

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After the news of Kejriwal's arrest broke, Gandhi denounced the government's move as arbitrary.

Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party said late Thursday it would challenge his arrest in the Supreme Court as his supporters thronged his Delhi residence, blocking roads and occasionally clashing with police. Speaking to television reporters outside Kejriwal's home, his party colleagues said the Enforcement Directorate probe was a ploy by Modi to prevent Kejriwal from campaigning in the upcoming elections.

Aam Aadmi Party official Somnath Bharti told reporters, “This is clear to all who fear defeat in the upcoming elections. “Is it freedom or justice? Opposition leaders are jailed; Bank accounts of opposition parties are being frozen.

Meanwhile, BJP officials doubled down on Kejriwal's corruption allegations and justified his arrest.

Modi is widely expected to win a third term in an election where the Bharatiya Janata Party is seen as India's most popular party, even as his Hindu nationalist party's monopoly over the state machinery and its dominance of campaign financing have sparked intense public debate. Fairness and Vigor of Indian Elections.

This month, a landmark Indian Supreme Court ruling forced the government to disclose detailed records of an opaque campaign finance program that allows Indian corporations to make unlimited and anonymous campaign contributions. The BJP has received more than half of the roughly $2 billion in corporate donations since 2018 — or more than the other 20 parties combined — the data shows.

Anant Gupta contributed to this report.

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