NEW DELHI: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was arrested from his official residence on Thursday, joining a list of fellow leaders from his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and other opposition figures who have been sent to jail by the Modi government.

Mr Kejriwal is the second serving chief minister in recent days to be arrested for alleged corruption, the previous one being the tribal CM of Jharkhand.

Mr Kejriwal had voiced concern at what he called the hounding of opposition parties ahead of the elections in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi says his coalition would win more than 400 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would be fighting the polls as the largest beneficiary of the now illegalised electoral bonds that allowed corporates to make hefty secret donations to political parties.

AAP sees move as a ‘big conspiracy’ ahead of Lok Sabha elections

According to The Hindu, hours after the Delhi High Court denied relief to Mr Kejriwal, an Enforcement Directorate (ED) team on Thursday evening arrested him hours after the team searched his residence in New Delhi, Aam Aadmi Party leader Atishi Singh confirmed to the media.

The agency reached his residence to carry out a search and serve him a summons to join the probe in an excise policy-linked money laundering case, officials earlier said.

They said a six-member team of the federal probe agency, along with an escort of the Delhi police, reached his official residence on Flagstaff Road in the national capital.

The ED action against Mr Kejriwal drew strong reactions from his AAP.

The high court did not grant any protection to Mr Kejriwal from the agency’s action in the case, they said. The bench listed the AAP leader’s application for further consideration on April 22 when his main petition challenging the summons was fixed for hearing, and asked the Enforcement Directorate to file its response.

As fresh developments unfolded through the day, Mr Kejriwal moved the Supreme Court against the high court’s order denying him any relief in the matter. The party has moved to the top court for an immediate hearing quashing Mr Kejriwal’s arrest and has requested a hearing tonight itself.

Earlier, AAP leader and Delhi Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj, who reached Mr Kejriwal’s residence soon after the ED team’s arrival, told reporters, “It seems that the ED is carrying out raids. I have not been allowed to go inside. It looks like ED is planning to arrest him.”

Reacting to the ED action, AAP MP Raghav Chadha alleged a “big conspiracy” to arrest Mr Kejriwal just before the Lok Sabha elections.

In a series of posts on X, the party said, “ED reached the house of Delhi’s son @ArvindKejriwal! BJP should know that it is trying to move the mountain in whose support the entire country stands today. The people of Delhi are watching everything. No one will sit silent today.”

Using the hashtag #IstandWithKejriwal, it said, “The BJP can stoop down to any level to make Arvind Kejriwal bow down. The people of the country including the entire Delhi are standing with their hero Arvind Kejriwal today. This dictatorship of yours will not last. And a Kejriwal will emerge from every house.”

Meanwhile, the Delhi police detained AAP workers protesting outside the residence of Mr Kejriwal.

The case pertains to alleged corruption and money laundering in formulating and executing the Delhi Government’s excise policy for 2021-22, which was later scrapped.

AAP leaders Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh are in judicial custody in the case.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2024

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