Indian Opposition Leader Kejriwal Arrested Amid Election Tensions

Just weeks shy of national polls, Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, found himself in the clutches of the anti-money laundering agency, sparking outcry from opposition voices who are calling it a “murder of democracy”.

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Kejriwal, who helms the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and is seen as a prominent opposition figure, was nabbed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday night over accusations tied to the capital’s liquor policy.

Come Friday, Kejriwal faced a judge in Delhi court, with the ED pushing for a 10-day custody stint.

The AAP’s legal eagles swooped in for a Supreme Court hearing in the dead of night, only to pull their plea when morning came around. The party’s bigwigs have rallied, planning protests across the country, with a major show of force in the capital set for Friday.

AAP members, ministers, and even cabinet folks were picked up by Delhi police amidst the brewing protests.

With Kejriwal being the first active CM to be arrested, whispers of a constitutional crisis are in the air.

The opposition’s taken a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP, slinging accusations of “conspiracy” and dubbing the arrest as democracy’s “murder”.

“It’s a plot from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP,” Delhi’s finance minister, Atishi, stated.

She reckoned Kejriwal’s the one Modi fears, adding a bold claim, “If needed, he will run the government from behind bars.”

Atishi, among other top AAP members, found themselves detained as protests kicked up a notch in Delhi, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh.

An AAP spokesperson told Al Jazeera the arrest smacks of “dirty politics” by Modi over a “bogus case”.

As the second opposition heavyweight to be cuffed by feds in two months, Kejriwal’s arrest comes at a delicate time, with Modi gunning for a third term.

Upper house parliament member Raghav Chadha said, “India is under an undeclared Emergency. Our democracy is critically endangered today. This is cowardly and a plot to muzzle the strongest opposition voices.”

Mr. Chadha harked back to the 1975 crisis when PM Indira Gandhi put the constitution on hold.

AAP’s been under the microscope, with allegations swirling about a 2022 liquor policy that allegedly favored private retailers and involved kickbacks from booze businesses.

This policy, which yanked ED’s grip on the capital’s liquor sales, got rolled back quick-smart, causing hundreds of private shops to shutter.

The AAP maintains there’s zero evidence of foul play, with Kejriwal previously claiming his honesty in stark terms.

Despite nine ED summonses, Kejriwal kept mum, dodging questioning over fears of arrest.

AAP supporters have been vocal, rallying outside Kejriwal’s digs post-arrest.

Critics accuse Modi’s government of using law enforcement as a tool against political foes, aiming to intimidate and weaken them, as a string of politicians face a legal gauntlet, some ending up behind bars.

The opposition’s under heat just days after details of a controversial funding system went public, showing the BJP as a major beneficiary.

Heavy security’s been deployed around Kejriwal’s residence, with drones buzzing overhead, as he’s due for a medical before ED proceedings kick off.

With anticipated protests, Delhi’s braced with traffic restrictions and barricaded roads leading to BJP HQ and the ED office.

Opposition leaders from across the spectrum have slammed the arrest, with Congress member Rahul Gandhi offering legal aid to Kejriwal’s family.

Gandhi called Modi a “scared dictator” and ramped up his critique as the arrest coincided with allegations of the government freezing his party’s accounts before elections.

Kerala and Tamil Nadu’s chief ministers have spoken out against the arrest, calling for a stand against the abuse of power and labeling the BJP regime as fascist.

Kejriwal, known for his anti-corruption stance, founded AAP in 2011. After seizing power in Delhi in 2013, AAP made significant gains in Punjab in 2022 and secured seats in Modi’s Gujarat.

His arrest is a setback for the “INDIA” block, an opposition alliance aiming to challenge BJP in the upcoming elections.

Political commentator Neerja Chowdhury shared with the Associated Press, “It looks like harassment because only opposition leaders are being targeted,” pointing out the absence of probes against BJP members.

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