India widened its crackdown on critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government with the arrest of an opposition lawmaker from a party governing Delhi.
(Bloomberg) — India widened its crackdown on critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government with the arrest of an opposition lawmaker from a party governing Delhi.
The Enforcement Directorate, a financial crimes agency, arrested Sanjay Singh on Wednesday in relation to alleged financial fraud, according to his Aam Aadmi Party.
The move comes after police arrested the editor-in-chief and another employee of a news website earlier in the week under an anti-terrorism law. Some observers contend the Modi government is suppressing independent views and intimidating political rivals ahead of elections due next summer.
“They are feeling the heat from the combined opposition,” said Arati Jerath, a New Delhi-based political analyst.
The arrest is related to alleged fraud over a now-scrapped liquor sales tax in Delhi, according to Singh’s party, which denies the allegations. The Enforcement Directorate didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“The AAP is not going to be scared” by threats of prison, Atishi Marlena, a senior party leader, told reporters Thursday. She said the government brought in hundreds of officers to investigate alleged corruption over the liquor tax but “failed to produce a single piece of evidence.”
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party defended the arrest, saying those involved in corruption won’t be spared. “If nothing is found in evidence, then an arrest cannot be made,” said Sambit Patra, a national BJP spokesperson.
The AAP joined several other opposition groups in June to form an alliance and oppose Modi’s party in five state elections later this year and the national vote in 2024.
AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has repeatedly accused the BJP-led government of carrying out a witch hunt against its politicians. “They will arrest many more opposition leaders till the elections,” he said on X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday.
The AAP grew out of an anti-corruption movement more than a decade ago. It positioned itself as a challenger to Modi’s party with some success, winning control of the northern state of Punjab and sweeping the local municipal council polls in Delhi late last year. It campaigns on health-care and education reform.
This isn’t the first time Modi’s government has accused AAP lawmakers of financial crimes. In February, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia was arrested on allegations of irregularities in the liquor sales policy. He’s been denied bail for the past seven months. In May last year, authorities arrested Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain on money laundering allegations.
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