Indian Opposition Parties Say They Face Tide of Troubles as Vote Nears

By John Mercury March 22, 2024

The head of one of India’s leading opposition parties was arrested in dramatic fashion on Thursday, the same day another party said it had been blocked from access to its bank accounts — actions taken by the government of Narendra Modi, critics say, to put his rivals at a disadvantage before a pivotal general election in April.

The leader of the Aam Aadmi Party, Arvind Kejriwal, was taken into custody late on Thursday at his home in New Delhi, where hundreds of protesters had gathered to protest his arrest by the federal financial crime agency. Mr. Kejriwal, who is also the chief minister of the national capital region of New Delhi, was arrested on allegations of corruption involving the city’s liquor policy. His party’s leaders say the charges are fraudulent.

Campaigning is heating up for a six-week-long election that starts on April 19 and will determine the next prime minister for the world’s most populous democracy. To run election campaigns from the Himalayan mountains to India’s southern shores, political groups spend billions of dollars in what is seen as one of the world’s most expensive elections.

As the vote gets closer, opposition figures say they are fighting a tide of troubles from the government, including Mr. Modi unleashing the country’s major investigating agencies against them while shielding those who switch to his side.

Among them is Mr. Kejriwal, who had been stuck in a game of cat and mouse with the agents in recent months after at least two of his ministers were sent to jail. More than a dozen officers arrived at his home on Thursday night, and, according to leaders of his party, took away his cellphone and those of family members. He was arrested after hours of questioning.

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