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In India, one of Modi's opponents returns to prison after campaigning

Photo: Arun Sankar Agence France-Presse India's highest court released Arvind Kejriwal on bail last month to allow him to campaign, provided he returned to detention as soon as the vote was over.

Abhaya Srivastava – Agence France-Presse and Bhuvan Bagga – Agence France-Presse respectively in New Delhi and Varasani

Published at 11:55 a.m.

  • Asia

One of Narendra Modi's main opponents returned to prison in India on Sunday and promised to fight the prime minister's “dictatorship”, on track to handily win the elections which ended on Saturday.

The results of the vote, the largest in history with 968 million voters, are expected on Tuesday but an exit poll broadcast on Saturday resulting from six weeks of voting augured another big victory for the 73-year-old Hindu nationalist leader.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is among the leaders of the opposition coalition who hoped to oust the prime minister from power after two successive terms.

He had been detained in March as part of a corruption investigation but has always maintained his innocence. His arrest, a month before the start of the general elections, was described by his supporters as a “political conspiracy” orchestrated by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

But India's highest court released him on bail last month to allow him to campaign, on condition that he return to detention as soon as the vote was over.

“I have been out for election campaigning for 21 days […] today I will surrender by going to Tihar,” a jail in New Delhi, Mr. Kejriwal announced on social media.

“When power turns into dictatorship, prison becomes an obligation,” he later said from his Aam Aadmi Party headquarters, asserting that he would continue to “fight” behind bars.< /p>

He was then imprisoned, a spokesperson for his party told AFP.

The official results are expected on Tuesday, but Mr. Modi's supporters in his constituency of Varanasi (or Benares), the spiritual capital of Hinduism, consider their leader's victory to be inevitable. “His government is back,” assures Nand Lal, who sells flowers in front of a temple.

Obstacles to the opposition campaign

The vote took place in oppressive heat in a large part of the country.

At least 33 Indian election officials died due to the heat on the last day of elections on Saturday, in the state of Uttar Pradesh (North) alone, said a local election official, suggesting a very heavy toll at the national level .

The opposition denounced during the election numerous obstacles to counter its campaign and several of its leaders, including Arvind Kejriwal, are under criminal investigation .

Mr. Kejriwal's administration was accused of corruption after he implemented a policy of liberalizing the sale of alcohol in 2021, renouncing lucrative state participation in the sector.

This policy was changed the following year, but the subsequent investigation into licensing led to the imprisonment of two key allies of Mr. Kejriwal.

Protests in support of Mr Kejriwal, who has denied wrongdoing and refused to leave office after his arrest, were held in many major Indian cities after he was detained in March.

Narendra Modi’s opponents and rights activists have long warned of a decline in freedoms in India.

Freedom House, a US think tank, this year warned that the BJP had “increasingly used government institutions to target political opponents”.

Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Congress party and scion of a dynasty that dominated Indian politics for decades, was found guilty of defamation last year following a complaint filed by a party member Mr. Modi.

Once ineligible, he was reinstated to Parliament after the Supreme Court suspended his conviction.

Hemant Soren, former chief minister of the state of Jharkhand ( East), was also arrested in February in another corruption investigation.

Arvind Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi and Hemant Soren are all members of the opposition INDIA alliance , bringing together dozens of parties which nevertheless had difficulty influencing the election against Narendra Modi.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116