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India: Modi rival Kejriwal released on bail to campaign

May 10, 2024

India's top court has granted Delhi's chief elected official, Arvind Kejriwal, temporary bail so he can campaign in elections. Kejriwal's detention on corruption charges has been seen as a bid to stymie the opposition.

Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi, addresses his supporters during a protest in February
Kejriwal's detention is seen by his supporters as politically motivatedImage: Hindustan Times/IMAGO

India's Supreme Court on Friday ordered Arvind Kejriwal, the key leader of an alliance opposed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to be released on bail so that he can campaign in ongoing general elections.

The seven-phase general election began on April 19. New Delhi and the northern state of Punjab, both comprising the National Capital Territory of which Kejriwal is the leader, will vote on May 25.

Who is Arvind Kejriwal, and why was he arrested? 

Kejriwal is the chief minister of the Indian capital, a role comparable with that of a governor in the US or a state premier in Germany. His case was the first time an official in his role in India was arrested while in office. 

Kejriwal's arrest triggered tensions between India and its Western allies, who called for a timely legal process.

He had been in pre-trial detention since April 1, having been arrested on March 21 by India's financial crime investigation agency on corruption allegations.

The government-controlled agency accused Kejriwal's party and ministers of accepting 1 billion rupees ($12 million) in bribes from liquor contractors nearly two years ago. 

He has consistently rejected accusations of wrongdoing against him.

Modi's government has denied having leaned on the agency, the so-called Enforcement Directorate, to bring about Kejriwal's arrest, but the opposition leader's supporters continue to see the case as politically motivated.

Top opposition figure arrested in India ahead of elections

What does the court decision mean for Arvind Kejriwal? 

In their order, the judges in the case said the national election was an important event. However, the court imposed some restrictions. 

Kejriwal will not be allowed to visit his office, and he cannot interact with any witnesses in the case.

Manjinder Singh Sirsa, a leader of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said Friday's decision did not mean that Kejriwal has been exonerated in the bribery case.

Kejriwal will have to go back to jail on June 2 as pre-trial court proceedings are still taking place.

Arvind Kejriwal's release ahead of India's elections

Kejriwal's release on bail was hailed by opposition politicians. "It will be very helpful in the context of the current elections," said Mamta Banerjee, the top elected official of West Bengal state.

Delhi Environment Minister and senior AAP leader Gopal Rai told reporters: "Today, the Supreme Court has struck a ray of hope in the hearts of the people who love this country, the constitution, and democracy [...] this is a victory of truth."

Since his arrest, rallies in support of Kejriwal have been held in numerous other big cities around India.

Kejriwal's wife, Sunita, has been campaigning for his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in his place while he has been absent.

Aam Aadmi Party logo
Kejriwal launched the Aam Aadmi Party in 2012. The party's symbol is a broom, and its promise is to sweep the administration of graftImage: Payel Samanta/DW


In February, the AAP struck a deal to join the INDIA bloc, led by India's main Congress opposition party. The bloc aims to be a substantial rival to the BJP.

Several leaders of the bloc are under criminal investigation.

Voting ends on June 1, and counting is scheduled for June 4.

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tj/rc (Reuters, AFP)