Arvind Kejriwal: Delhi Chief Minister arrested in corruption case

Arrest comes weeks before India heads to elections starting on April 19

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in 2013. AP
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India’s financial police on Thursday arrested Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal over allegations of kickbacks in bringing a now-scrapped alcohol policy to the Indian capital.

Mr Kejriwal had been summoned nine times by the Enforcement Directorate, the federal financial crimes police, to appear for interrogation into the allegations that his Aam Aadmi Party received kickbacks from alcohol companies to pass a favourable policy in the capital city.

The arrest is seen as a major development as India votes next month in the national elections.

Mr Kejriwal’s AAP is a key ally of the Congress-led INDIA alliance that is contesting the election against the dominant National Democratic Alliance, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party.

AAP and opposition parties have accused Mr Modi’s government of unleashing federal investigative agencies against political rivals to intimidate and weaken them.

Several leaders of the AAP, including Mr Kejriwal’s deputy Manish Sisodia, are in the jail over the alleged scam.

Mr Kejriwal was arrested hours after the Delhi High Court rejected his plea for protection against arrest by the directorate earlier on Thursday.

“We have received news that ED has arrested Arvind Kejriwal,” said Atishi, an AAP leader.

"We have always said that Arvind Kejriwal will run the government from jail. He will remain the Chief Minister of Delhi.

"We have moved the Supreme Court for quashing the arrest of the Delhi Chief Minister by ED. We have asked for an urgent hearing by the Supreme Court tonight.".

The policy would have led to the government's exit from the alcohol business in 2021 and meant to increase revenue and eliminate the black market.

It was cancelled by the government after the allegations emerged, with most of the 849 private alcohol shops shutting their outlets.

Mr Kejriwal had been summoned nine times, but he skipped the summons while also accusing Mr Modi of using the agencies against him.

He had been questioned for more than two hours on Thursday evening while his home was raided by several agencies.

AAP workers protested against his arrest outside his home, which was cordoned off by Delhi police and special riot officers.

“It is a murder of democracy,” one of the party members said after the arrest.

Protests had also reportedly broken out in Punjab, the northern state ruled by AAP, by party workers.

Mr Kejriwal rose to power after a massive street agitation against corruption and political reforms in 2013.

He formed AAP along with lawyers, journalists and activists, and in its electoral debut won 28 seats but failed to continue in the chief minister’s chair after losing the floor test.

Mr Kejriwal is the second chief minister to have been arrested by the ED before elections.

Hemant Soren, the former Jharkhand chief minister, was arrested by the federal financial police in February in connection with an alleged land scam.

Updated: March 28, 2024, 12:42 PM