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Delhi chief minister Kejriwal arrested in liquor graft case

INDIA’S financial crime agency arrested Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi on Thursday in connection with graft allegations relating to the city’s liquor policy, his party said, a setback for the opposition ahead of elections.

The arrest means the main leaders of the decade-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are in jail, following the arrests last year of two of Kejriwal’s deputies in the same case – which the party has called “dirty politics”.

Kejriwal, 55, rose to power as an anti-corruption crusader and founded the AAP, Hindi for “common man’s party”, in 2011. Scores of supporters protested outside his heavily guarded residence and clashed with security forces as news of his arrest broke.

Atishi, Delhi’s finance minister, said on social media that the AAP was seeking to quash the latest arrest. “We have asked for an urgent hearing by the Supreme Court tonight itself,” she said.

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The agency, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), is investigating allegations that a liquor policy implemented by the Delhi government in 2022, which ended its control over sale of liquor in the capital, gave undue advantages to private retailers.

The policy was subsequently withdrawn. The AAP has said no evidence of wrongdoing has emerged in the investigation and Kejriwal has previously said that if he is corrupt “then there is no one in this world who is honest”.

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Local media reported that he will be presented before a court on Friday where the charges against him will be made public. There was no immediate comment from the directorate.

The ED had issued nine summons to him so far for questioning. Kejriwal did not answer them, saying that he feared he would be arrested if he appeared for questioning. He also sought protection from arrest from court, saying his party would be weakened in elections if that were to happen.

Opposition parties expressed concern on social media, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who said: “The arrest of elected Chief Ministers has become a common thing.”

AAP is part of the 27-party ‘INDIA’ bloc, an opposition alliance that hopes to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in national elections beginning April 19.

The bloc has dismissed graft investigations against multiple opposition leaders as a politically-motivated smear campaign by the BJP, which runs the federal government that controls the Enforcement Directorate. The BJP denies political interference.

The agency arrested Kejriwal’s deputy Manish Sisodia and AAP lawmaker Sanjay Singh in the same case last year. After coming to power in Delhi in 2013, AAP swept state elections in the northern state of Punjab in 2022 and won a few seats in Modi’s home state Gujarat in the same year.

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By SHIVAM PATEL

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