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India’s highest court grants bail to incarcerated Modi critic, Kejriwal

India’s Supreme Court, on Friday, ruled for the release on bail of a prominent critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, permitting him to campaign during the ongoing national elections.

Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi and a key figure in an opposition coalition formed to challenge Modi in the polls, was arrested in March amid a lengthy corruption investigation.

He is one of several leaders from the coalition facing criminal inquiries, with one of his associates labeling his pre-election arrest as a “political conspiracy” orchestrated by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta of the Supreme Court sanctioned Kejriwal’s release from custody until June 1, the final day of voting in the six-week election. Kejriwal’s administration faced allegations of corruption related to its policy changes concerning liquor sales in 2021, including the relinquishing of a profitable government stake in the sector.

Although the policy was revoked the following year, an investigation into the purportedly corrupt allocation of licenses led to the imprisonment of two of Kejriwal’s top allies.

Support rallies for Kejriwal, who maintains his innocence, were staged in various major cities across India following his arrest.

Kejriwal, aged 55, has served as Chief Minister for nearly a decade and initially rose to power as a vocal anti-corruption advocate.

He had previously defied numerous summons from the Enforcement Directorate, India’s financial crimes agency, for interrogation as part of the investigation.

‘Target political opponents’

Modi’s adversaries in politics and international human rights organizations have consistently raised alarms about the diminishing democratic freedoms in India.

A US think-tank, Freedom House, recently stated that the BJP has been increasingly utilizing governmental institutions to target political rivals.

Rahul Gandhi, a prominent figure in the opposition Congress party and scion of a political dynasty that dominated Indian politics for generations, was convicted of criminal defamation last year following a complaint from a member of Modi’s party.

Although his two-year prison term initially led to his disqualification from parliament, the verdict was later suspended by a higher court. Nevertheless, it raised significant concerns regarding democratic principles in the world’s most populous nation.

Both Kejriwal and Gandhi are part of an opposition coalition comprising over two dozen parties, collectively contesting India’s elections. However, even without the shadow of criminal investigations looming over its key figures, the coalition is not widely expected to make significant gains against Modi, who remains popular even a decade into his tenure.

Many analysts perceive Modi’s reelection as all but assured, partly due to the resonance of his assertive Hindu-nationalist agenda among members of the country’s majority religion.

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