World News 22 Mart 2024

'A scared dictator': Indian PM criticised as protests held over arrest of political rival

'A scared dictator': Indian PM criticised as protests held over arrest of political rival

India’s prime minister has been labelled a “scared dictator” after a key opposition politician was arrested.

Delhi‘s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, a prominent anti-corruption campaigner, was detained following a raid on Thursday night.

He leads the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – also known as the Common People’s Party – and the arrest comes weeks before national elections are due to begin.

'A scared dictator': Indian PM criticised as protests held over arrest of political rival
Image:
Arvind Kejriwal. Pic: Reuters

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

Rivals claim Mr Modi is using law enforcement agencies to orchestrate a crackdown, and Mr Kejriwal’s arrest sparked protests on Friday.

Thousands demonstrated in Delhi – with some shouting “death to democracy, long live Kejriwal!” – and security forces have been deployed.

India‘s Enforcement Directorate, a federal agency controlled by Mr Modi’s government, has accused Mr Kejriwal’s party and ministers of accepting one billion rupees (£9.5m) in bribes over Delhi’s alcohol policies.

The AAP has denied the “fabricated” allegations – and vowed that Mr Kejriwal will remain the city’s top elected official as he fights the case in court.

'A scared dictator': Indian PM criticised as protests held over arrest of political rival
Image:
Pic: AP

Political commentator Neerja Chowdhury said: “It looks like harassment because only opposition leaders are being singled out.”

Noting that no investigations have been launched against members of Mr Modi’s party, she added: “It’s not a level playing field.”

The government has been accused of misusing its power to harass and weaken political rivals – gaining an unfair advantage in the polls.

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'A scared dictator': Indian PM criticised as protests held over arrest of political rival
Image:
Pic: AP

A slew of raids, arrests and corruption investigations have been launched against opposition figures, with charges dropped against some who later joined Mr Modi’s party.

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

Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress party, wrote on X: “A scared dictator wants to create a dead democracy.”

Congress has separately accused the government of freezing its bank account in an attempt to cripple its election campaigning.

Meanwhile, AAP politician Raghav Chadha said: “India is under an undeclared emergency. Our democracy stands critically endangered today.”

Mr 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.

'A scared dictator': Indian PM criticised as protests held over arrest of political rival
Image:
Pic: Reuters

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.

source

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