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Indian opposition rally for Arvind Kejriwal, challenges Modi

March 31, 2024

The opposition alliance criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government's actions, claiming they put his opponents at a disadvantage ahead of the general election.

Opposition supporters attend a  protest rally organized by INDIA bloc, a group formed by opposition parties, in New Delhi, India
The "Save Democracy" rally was the first major public demonstration by the opposition bloc INDIA after the arrest of opposition leader Arvind KejriwalImage: Manish Swarup/AP Photo/picture alliance

Thousands of supporters of India's leading opposition parties rallied in New Delhi on Sunday to protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government ahead of general elections next month.

Leaders of an alliance of opposition parties spoke out against "autocracy" and the arrest of a senior colleague ahead of general elections at the "Save Democracy" rally.

"This battle is to safeguard the nation, democracy, constitution, future of the nation, youth, farmers and women. This battle is for justice and truth," Deepender Singh Hooda, a lawmaker of the Congress party, said.

Modi and his Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are seeking a third term in power against the 28-party alliance called INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) in the vote, which begins in mid-April and runs through early June.

Kejriwal arrest questioned by opposition

The arrest last week of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), on allegations of corruption, is seen as a setback for the opposition bloc.

Kejriwal alleges that the charges against him and his party are politically motivated and a bid to hamper their campaigning ahead of the election.

Opposition leaders echoed those sentiments on Sunday, saying his arrest was undemocratic.

Supporters of the Aam Admi Party wear masks in the likeness of the party leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal at a protest rally organized by INDIA bloc
Kejriwal was arrested by the federal Enforcement DirectorateImage: Manish Swarup/AP Photo/picture alliance

They also accused Modi and the BJP of using federal agencies to undermine them.

"Narendra Modi wants to strangle democracy and take away the option from the people to choose the government of their choice," opposition leader Rahul Gandhi from the Congress party, who took part in Sunday's rally, wrote on X.

"The country is headed towards autocracy," Shiv Sena party leader Uddhav Thackeray, a former chief minister of Maharashtra state, told cheering crowds. "This one-man government is taking the country to ruin."

The BJP denies targeting the opposition and says law enforcement agencies act independently.

India's Foreign Ministry had summoned the United States and German diplomats after they expressed concern over Kejriwal's arrest.

Top opposition figure arrested in India ahead of elections

lo/sms (AP, AFP)