Indian opposition leader arrested in case condemned by his party as ‘conspiracy’

Arvind Kejriwal arrested in a corruption case one month before elections

Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, has been arrested in a corruption case, a move condemned by his party as a “conspiracy” by Narendra Modi’s government to target the opposition before next month’s elections.

Mr Kejriwal, who is the leader of the Aam Aadmi party (AAP) and has been Delhi’s chief minister since 2015, was arrested at his home on Thursday night by a dozen officers from the enforcement directorate (ED), an investigating agency under central government control.

The case against Mr Kejriwal relates to an ongoing investigation by the ED, which has accused several senior AAP politicians in Delhi of corruption and taking kickbacks from an alcohol licensing policy.

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


Atishi Singh, an AAP minister in the government of Delhi, 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 arresting one Kejriwal can finish off the idea, you are wrong.”

The arrest took place with less than a month to go before India’s elections, where Mr Modi and his BJP government are seeking a third term in power.

Though relatively new and small compared with other opposition parties, the AAP, which grew out of an anti-corruption movement, has won state elections in the capital, Delhi, and more recently in Punjab. Mr Kejriwal has openly declared his intentions to grow AAP into a fully national party to challenge the might of the BJP and he has made himself a thorn in the side of the Modi government.

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

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

Earlier this year, Mr Kejriwal was named as a “conspirator” in what is known widely as the Delhi liquor scam, and he was accused of being involved in money laundering. In recent weeks he had refused various summonses to come in 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 served as Mr Kejriwal’s deputy in the AAP Delhi government, has been in jail for more than in a year in the same case, and several others have been arrested in recent weeks.

On Thursday night officers turned up at Mr Kejriwal’s Delhi residence with a warrant and began conducting a search, before arresting him and taking him to the ED offices.

The party was vehement that Mr Kejriwal would not resign and instead remain as chief minister and “run the government from jail”.

In statement on X, the party said: “The time has come for total revolution. The dictatorial government that is trampling the country, it’s time to overthrow it.” The party said it had gone to the supreme court immediately to challenge Mr Kejriwal’s arrest.

The Delhi BJP president, Virendra Sachdeva, praised the arrest, saying “the truth had to prevail and Arvind Kejriwal had to be punished for his sins”.

The move comes as the BJP stands accused of accelerating a 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 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 damaged,” Gandhi said. “The idea that India is a democracy is a lie. There is no democracy in India today.” – Guardian