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Arvind Kejriwal arrested: Protesters demand release of Indian leader Narendra Modi’s rival

Hundreds of people are protesting for a second day in the Indian capital to demand the release of a rival to the prime minister ahead of next month’s general election.

Arvind Kejriwal, New Delhi’s top elected official and prominent anti-corruption activist, was arrested by a federal agency on Thursday evening.

of India Enforcement Directorate, which is controlled by Narendra Modi The government has accused Kejriwal’s party and ministers of taking a billion rupees (£9.5m) in bribes over the city’s alcohol policy.

The Enforcement Directorate, a federal agency that investigates economic crimes, takes Aam Aadmi Party or Common Man's Party leader Arvind Kejriwal (right) into its office on Thursday, March 3, at his residence in New Delhi, India on 21, 2024. The federal agency accused Kejriwal and his ministers of accepting 1 billion rupees ($12 million) in bribes from liquor traders nearly two years ago, a top leader of his party said.  (AP Photo/dinesh Joshi)
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Arvind Kejriwal, right, was arrested on Thursday. Image: AP

A court has ordered him to remain in custody until March 28.

Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – also known as Common People’s Party – has rejected the “fabricated” allegations and vowed that he will remain Delhi’s chief minister while he argues the case in court.

AAP is part of an alliance of opposition parties that have come together as main opponents of Mr Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Rivals claim the prime minister is using law enforcement to stage a raid and harass opponents ahead of the national election.

Kejriwal’s wife Sunita posted a message on the AAP-X account on behalf of her husband.

It quoted Kejriwal as saying he was not surprised by his detention as he had “fought a lot” and warned of “several forces within and outside India that are weakening the country”.

Supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party or Common Man's Party shout protest slogans during a protest against the arrest of their party leader Arvind Kejriwal in New Delhi, India, Saturday, March 23, 2024.  Hundreds of protesters in India's capital took to the streets for a second time on Saturday, demanding the immediate release of one of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's biggest rivals as the country prepares for a national election next month.  (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
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Image: AP

Kejriwal protest.  Image: Reuters
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Image: Reuters

Amid chants of “Kejriwal is Modi’s downfall” and “dictatorship will not be tolerated,” protesters on Saturday accused the Indian leader of ruling the country under a state of emergency.

This came after hundreds of AAP supporters and some senior party leaders clashed with police on Friday, who took some of them away in buses.

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The BJP says law enforcement agencies operate independently of the government, with a spokesman accusing Kejriwal’s party of playing the “victim card.”

But critics point out that investigations into rivals who later defected to Mr Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have been dropped.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the inauguration of the Sabarmati Mahatma Gandhi Ashram renovation project in Ahmedabad, India, Tuesday, March 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)
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Narendra Modi is widely expected to win a third term. Image: AP

Kejriwal’s arrest represents a further setback for the opposition alliance. The country’s Congress party accused the government on Thursday of freezing its bank accounts in order to weaken it in the tax dispute.

Kejriwal founded the AAP in 2012 and promised during the election campaign to rid India’s political system of corruption – using a broom as his party’s logo.

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In 2023, the law enforcement agency arrested Kejriwal’s deputy Manish Sisodia and AAP politician Sanjay Singh in the liquor corruption case. Both remain in prison.

India’s general elections will be held in seven phases from April 19 to June 1. The results are expected to be announced three days later.

Mr Modi is widely expected to win a third term.

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