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Kejriwal arrested in money-laundering case, will remain Delhi CM

Source: PTI   -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra
Last updated on: March 22, 2024 01:01 IST
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The Enforcement Directorate on Thursday night arrested Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in an excise policy-linked money laundering case, officials said, in a big setback to his Aam Aadmi Party and the opposition INDIA bloc just ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

IMAGE: Enforcement Directorate team takes Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (middle) to ED Headquarters, in New Delhi, March 21, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

The arrest, the first of a serving chief minister, came hours after the Delhi High Court refused to grant protection to the AAP national convenor from any coercive action by the central probe agency.

The arrest of the 55-year-old bureaucrat-turned-activist-turned-politician at a time when the AAP seeks to expand its political footprint in the upcoming general elections drew strong condemnation from his party which is in power in Delhi and Punjab. Several opposition leaders also condemned the move and targeted the BJP and rallied behind Kejriwal.

The AAP said Kejriwal will continue as the chief minister of Delhi and that if need be, he will run the government from jail. The party also called for nationwide protests outside the BJP offices in the country, Delhi minister Gopal Rai said.


The BJP, however, demanded that Kejriwal step down as chief minister on moral grounds.

After his arrest, Kejriwal was brought to the office of the Enforcement Directorate in central Delhi around 11.25 pm in an SUV. The chief minister was seen sitting in the rear seat of the vehicle wearing a white half-shirt. He was escorted by three ED officers.

On a day of fast-paced developments, a 10-member ED team led by an additional director reached Kejriwal's official residence on Flagstaff Road in Civil Lines in the national capital soon after the high court order and carried out searches. The AAP chief was arrested more than two hours after the ED team arrived at his residence, officials said.

Officials said the ED would produce the chief minister before a court here on Friday and seek his custody for interrogation in the case. This is the 16th arrest by the ED in the case that has hit the AAP.

Kejriwal had skipped nine summonses issued by the agency for questioning, the latest being for Thursday, March 21. He has called these summonses "illegal".

The ED officials questioned Kejriwal briefly before making the arrest. Some seizures have also been made, sources said but gave no details.

Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj said the ED did not find any evidence during the searches and that the agency found Rs 70,000 which was returned.

As the ED officials carried out their action inside, additional Delhi Police personnel and Rapid Action Force (RAF) and CRPF teams were deployed around the chief minister's residence.

The additional deployment was made as the ED sought extra security measures in anticipation of protests by AAP supporters.

A large number of AAP workers and leaders gathered near the chief minister's residence and shouted slogans hailing Kejriwal and denouncing the ED action.

The Delhi police detained around two dozen AAP workers, including MLAs, who were trying to block the road during their protests.

The police also stepped up security around the ED office on A P J Abdul Kalam Road in central Delhi.

During the day, Kejriwal moved the Supreme Court against the high court's order denying him any relief in the matter.

Later, AAP leader and Delhi minister Atishi said they have moved the Supreme Court for quashing the arrest of Kejriwal and "asked for an urgent hearing...tonight itself."

But court sources said no special bench was being set up on Thursday night.

In Kejriwal's absence, the party stares at uncertainty as many of its other senior leaders are either in jail or in political obscurity.
His trusted aides -- Sanjay Singh and Manish Sisodia -- are in prison in connection with the excise policy case, while another close aide Satyendar Jain is in jail in a separate money laundering case.

The challenge before the AAP now is to come up with a worthy leader who could handle both the party and its government in Delhi in the absence of Kejriwal.

With Kejriwal's arrest, the ongoing confrontation between the AAP and the Centre over a range of issues is also expected to further escalate.

From leading the 'India Against Corruption' movement to becoming the chief minister of Delhi thrice in a row, Kejriwal has had a chequered career.

The ED's action is virtually a replay of what transpired during the arrest last week of Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Kavitha, who is now in ED custody in the same case.

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.

Kejriwal's name has been mentioned multiple times in the charge sheets filed by the ED. The agency has alleged that the accused were in touch with Kejriwal for formulating the excise policy that resulted in undue benefits to them in return for which they paid kickbacks to the AAP.

Minister Atishi, who was among those gathered outside the chief minister's residence, claimed that this entire episode showed how "scared" Prime Minister Narendra Modi is of Kejriwal. "He(Modi) has hatched a conspiracy to send him(Kejriwal) to jail before the Lok Sabha elections."

"He(Kejriwal) will continue as the chief minister of Delhi. If need be, he will run the government from jail. There is no rule that stops him from running the government from jail since he has not been convicted," she told reporters.

AAP MP Raghav Chadha alleged a "big conspiracy" to arrest Kejriwal just before the Lok Sabha elections.

In a series of posts on X, the AAP 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 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."

The Congress alleged the BJP is scared of the upcoming elections and is creating all kinds of problems for the opposition out of panic.

Another AAP ally NCP-SP chief Sharad Pawar said Kejriwal's arrest showcases the depth to which the BJP will stoop for power.

"'INDIA' stands united against this unconstitutional action against Arvind Kejriwal," Pawar said in a post on X.

The BJP on its part said Kejriwal reaped what he sowed and asserted that the law has finally caught up with him after his long-drawn efforts to evade it.

Delhi BJP president Virendra Sachdeva said, "If Kejriwal has any morality left he should step down and cooperate with the ED."

Several former chief ministers like Lalu Prasad(Bihar), Hemant Soren(Jharkhand) and late Jayalalithaa(Tamil Nadu) were arrested by law enforcement agencies before but they were not holding office when they were taken into custody. 

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
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