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Arvind Kejriwal detained: Protesters demand release of rival to Indian leader Narendra Modi | World News

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

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

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

Enforcement Directorate, a federal agency that probes economic offenses, takes Aam Aadmi Party, or Common Man's Party, leader Arvind Kejriwal, right, to their office after arresting him from his residence, in New Delhi, India, Thursday, March 21, 2024. Federal agency accused Kejriwal and his ministers of accepting 1 billion rupees ($12 million) in bribes from liquor contractors 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. Pic: AP

A court has ordered for him to be held in custody until 28 March.

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

AAP is part of an alliance of opposition parties who have joined together as the main challenger to Mr Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Rivals claim the prime minister is using law enforcement agencies to orchestrate a crackdown and harass opponents in the run up to the national poll.

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

It quoted Kejriwal as saying he was not surprised by his detention as he has “struggled a lot”, and warning against “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 day Saturday, demanding to the immediate release of one of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's top rivals, as the country gears up for a national election next month. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
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Pic: AP

Kejriwal protest. Pic: Reuters
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Pic: Reuters

To chants of “Kejriwal is Modi’s doom” and “Dictatorship won’t be tolerated,” protesters on Saturday accused the Indian leader of ruling the country under a state of emergency.

It comes after hundreds of AAP supporters and some senior party leaders on Friday clashed with the police, who took a number of them away in buses.

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

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

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the launch of the redevelopment project of the Sabarmati Mahatma Gandhi Ashram 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. Pic: AP

Kejriwal’s arrest represents another setback for the opposition alliance, with the country’s Congress party accusing the government on Thursday of freezing its bank accounts in a tax dispute to cripple it.

Kejriwal launched the AAP in 2012 and has campaigned on a promise to rid India’s political system of corruption – with a broom as his party’s logo.

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In 2023, the Enforcement Directorate arrested Kejriwal’s deputy, Manish Sisodia, and AAP politician Sanjay Singh as part of the alcohol corruption case. Both remain in jail.

India’s general election is due to take place in seven phases from 19 April to 1 June, with results due to be declared three days later.

It is widely expected that Mr Modi will win a third term.

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