India’s federal investigators arrested Delhi's Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia over allegations that the city received kickbacks from alcohol companies seeking the privatisation the sector in the national capital.
Mr Sisodia was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation on Sunday evening after he was called in for questioning over the alleged payments that would have led to the government's exit from the liquor business in 2021.
The bureau said Mr Sisodia — who presides over several departments, including finance, excise and education — was arrested after he gave “evasive replies” and failed to “co-operate in the investigation”.
The bureau filed a case against the minister and other accused employees of the state government, including some private liquor company executives, in August last year and raided his residence.
The proposed privatisation, meant to increase revenue and eliminate the black market, was cancelled by the government after the allegations emerged, with most of the 849 private liquor stores shutting their outlets.
The Delhi government then reopened state-run liquor stores.
The Aam Aadmi Party, the ruling party in Delhi, was formed after a nationwide anti-corruption campaign in 2012 when several former bureaucrats, journalists, advocates and activists teamed up to end political and social malpractices.
The party has been in power in Delhi since 2014 and has sought to establish itself as a national party and a key opposition to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government.
It has already won control of northern Punjab state.
However, the BJP accuses AAP leaders of being corrupt and involved in irregular practices.
Mr Sisodia is the second Delhi minister after Satyendra Jain to be arrested. Mr Jain was arrested on money laundering charges in May last year.
The AAP has accused Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party of conducting a witch hunt against its leaders and considers Mr Sisodia's arrest as a setback.
“Manish is innocent. His arrest is dirty politics. There is a lot of anger among the people due to the arrest of Manish,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Twitter.
“Everyone is watching. People are understanding everything. People will respond to this. It will boost our spirits further. Our struggle will get stronger.”
AAP leaders and party members will gather outside the BJP's headquarters in the national capital on Monday to protest against Mr Sisodia’s arrest.