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Indian Opposition Leader Hemant Soren Arrested Months Before Elections

In Uncategorized, World
February 01, 2024

The chief minister of India’s Jharkand state and leader in the opposition coalition was arrested Wednesday, just months before the country’s elections.

Hemant Soren was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate, the nation’s federal anti-money laundering agency, relating to a case of alleged land fraud, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified as the details aren’t public. A charge sheet hasn’t yet been filed, according to the person.

Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha party governs the north-eastern state in a coalition with the Indian National Congress. His party is also a member of the opposition coalition known by the acronym I.N.D.I.A, which was formed last year to fight Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party in national elections, expected to take place in April and May.

Read More: A Crucial State Election Loss Underscores Modi’s Waning Grasp in South India

Soren resigned as chief minister on Wednesday after he was questioned by the investigative agency. 

On Thursday, Soren petitioned the country’s Supreme Court challenging his arrest. Requesting an urgent hearing, his lawyer Kapil Sibal said Soren’s arrest is “a very serious matter.” The court is scheduled to hear the case Friday. 

While there have been several chief ministers who have resigned in the past while facing legal charges, Soren is the first sitting head of a regional party to be arrested without any formal charges brought against him.

Leaders from Soren’s party and the opposition alliance said the arrest was politically motivated, with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party seeking to intimidate the opposition. 

“As part of the conspiracy, BJP’s work to destabilize opposition parties one by one continues,” Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, said in a post on social media platform X.

The BJP denied that opposition groups are being targeted in any way. Sudhanshu Trivedi, the national spokesperson for the ruling party, reiterated on a local news channel Wednesday that the government was pursuing allegations of corruption or fraud against any politician, irrespective of their political allegiances.

Read More: India’s Worsening Democracy Makes It an Unreliable Ally

Soren nominated veteran party leader, Champai Soren, as his replacement as chief minister after a session with legislative members of his party. The two aren’t related.

Speculation has been swirling for months that the Enforcement Directorate may also target Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of India’s capital Delhi over a bribery scandal. Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, or Common Man’s Party, is also competing in the upcoming polls against the BJP.

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