Modi uses ED to suppress opponents like Arvind Kejriwal

In World
March 26, 2024

In the typical method of persecuting his opposition, Narendra Modi has venomously unleashed ED, the prime financial crime fighting agency, against all elements opposing his increasingly autocratic rule. The latest casualty of this method is Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi who is one of the staunchest opponents of Modi’s rule.

Kejriwal was arrested from his official residence and is the newest addition to a growing list of his Aam Aadmi Party fellow leaders and other opposition figures who have been sent to jail by the Modi government.

Kejriwal is the second serving chief minister in recent days to be arrested for alleged corruption, the previous one being the tribal CM of Jharkhand. Kejriwal has been a vocal opponent of Modi and has consistently raised voice against hounding of opposition parties ahead of the elections.

Modi’s BJP government has employed the coercive method of instituting cases against politicians opposing his regime. The intensity of his oppressive approach has witnessed summoning, questioning and raiding of nearly 150 politicians from the opposition since Modi assumed power in 2014. He has entrusted this despicable task to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) India’s main financial crime fighting agency that is now roundly accused of having become Modi’s handmaiden. Indian opposition is full of resentment against Modi’s harassing tactics and point out that the campaign launched by ED on behest of Modi government will negatively effect their chances of fighting Modi at the polls.

The ED is the most powerful of the federal agencies that can search and arrest without warrant. This is a gross travesty of justice but Modi government conveniently ignores it and does not hesitate to utilise ED for putting pressure on the opposition. It is a witch hunt that is becoming nasty by the day and has caused incalculable harm to the political forces contesting Modi and his party. Many Indian opposition leaders have defiantly held that a scared dictator wants to create a dead democracy. The pressure exerted by Modi regime has resulted in at least a dozen opposing politicians having switched allegiance to the BJP or its alliance in recent years. It is reported that ED investigations against those who defect are either dropped or put on hold.

The high-profile leader of opposition to Modi’s rule, Rahul Gandhi, accuses the government to have crippled his Congress Party with tax demands that have led to the freezing of its bank accounts. Both Rahul Gandhi and his mother have been questioned in a case relating to alleged money laundering. The latest target of ED is Kejriwal who was arrested by the agency for alleged corruption in awarding liquor licences in the city, an allegation he emphatically denies. Kejriwal’s deputy leader is in jail along main leaders of Aam Aadmi Party. Moreover, in West Bengal opposition lawmaker Tapas Roy stated that his house and office were raided by ED in corruption case but weeks later when he joined BJP, the agency has gone quiet.

Earlier in January, the ED arrested the chief minister of Jharkhand, Hemant Soren, in a case related to alleged land fraud. Soren, who is allied to Congress, said hours before the arrest that he was the victim of a political conspiracy. His Jharkhand Mukti Morcha party said more than 1,000 opposition politicians, including current or former lawmakers, who had earlier been accused of corruption by the BJP have defected to the ruling party or have become its allies in the past decade.

Interestingly Modi is taking credit for his dedicated coercive action as he has confirmed that since his stint in power ED had registered 4,700 cases compared with 1,800 by the previous government. He has boasted that properties worth more than 1 trillion rupees have been seized in the past decade up from 50 billion rupees during the Congress government. Since the last nine years of the enactment of the Act empowering ED the records show that during Congress-led coalition the ED carried out 112 searches and filed charges in 104 cases but without any convictions. But on the other hand, in the first eight years of Modi’s rule searches jumped to 3,010, charges were filed in 888 cases, and 23 people were convicted.

More worrying is the fact that it is just not political opponents that Modi has targeted through ED but he also assaulted Amnesty International compelling it to halt its operations in India after ED froze its bank accounts on the pretext that Amnesty was channelling large amounts of money to four entities in India in contravention of laws governing foreign financing.

The Amnesty reacted by stating that the ED has been weaponised by Modi government to harass, intimidate, silence and criminalise independent critical voices in India. Not only Modi’s political opponents but international rights groups have long sounded the alarm on India’s shrinking democratic space particularly by various American outfits that emphasise that the BJP has increasingly utilised government institutions to hound its political opponents.

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