Manish Sisodia: Protests in India over Delhi minister’s arrest

NEW DELHI (BBC): India’s capital Delhi is witnessing massive protests by members of its governing party over a top leader’s arrest for alleged corruption.

Manish Sisodia, Delhi’s deputy chief minister, was arrested on Sunday by a federal agency over alleged irregularities in a liquor policy in the city.

He and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) deny the allegations.

Mr Sisodia is set to be produced in court on Monday.

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has said that Mr Sisodia was arrested in connection with its investigation into Delhi’s liquor policy, under which new alcohol shops were opened – these were later closed after the Delhi government withdrew the scheme.

“He gave evasive replies and did not co-operate [with] the investigation despite being confronted with evidence to the contrary,” it said on Sunday.

But the AAP has said that Mr Sisodia is innocent and that his arrest was the result of “dirty politics”.

The CBI reports to the federal government, which is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – the BJP is also the main opposition party in Delhi.

Members of the AAP are protesting outside the party’s headquarters in Delhi and trying to march towards the CBI court and the BJP’s office. Videos show police trying to push pack protesters and detaining some of them. Slogans condemning Mr Sisodia’s arrest can also be heard.

Massive police forces have been stationed across the capital and several key roads have been closed.

AAP members are also holding protests in Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab state, where the party is in power. Protests have also begun in Mumbai, Bengaluru (Bangalore), Bhopal and several other cities.

The AAP and the BJP have been at loggerheads in Delhi over a number of issues. The BJP has repeatedly accused the AAP of corruption, while the latter has alleged that Mr Modi’s party uses federal institutions to impede its work.

Last year, Delhi’s health minister Satyendra Jain was arrested in connection with a money laundering case – he has denied the allegations, and is still in jail after a Delhi court rejected his bail plea.

Questions of corruption are a sensitive matter for the AAP, which emerged more than 10 years ago from a major movement against corruption.

It has been trying to position itself as a key opposition force to the BJP – apart from being in power in Delhi and Punjab, it is preparing to contest more state elections this year.

Mr Sisodia was arrested on Sunday evening after he was questioned for around eight hours at the CBI headquarters. Before he reached the office, he had visited Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial at Raj Ghat with other AAP leaders.

In a speech, he had also asked party workers to take care of his family, saying that he “might have to go to jail for seven-eight months”.

After his arrest, AAP leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted: “We will take care of your family Manish, don’t worry.”