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12 Apr, 2024 14:09

Modi vows ‘strict action’ against corruption ahead of polls 

The opposition has accused the government of using federal agencies to target critics in a “witch hunt”  
Modi vows ‘strict action’ against corruption ahead of polls 

India is committed to taking “strict action” against corrupt individuals, even in states where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has told the Hindustan newspaper. 

The prime minister pushed back against opposition allegations that the government is using investigative agencies – particularly the Enforcement Directorate (ED), an organization tasked by the Finance Ministry with investigating money laundering and violations of foreign exchange laws – to silence political opponents.   

Only 3% of cases being probed by the ED involve people associated with politics, Modi said. “Steps are being taken even in states where the BJP is in power. The narratives you have heard, that it is only political corruption that we are after, are being circulated by people who are under the sword of investigative agencies,” he added. “Those who see benefits in a corrupt system are the ones who are crying foul and presenting the wrong picture in front of the people.” 

The comments come after the arrest of Delhi chief minister and prominent opposition leader Arvind Kejriwal over an alleged liquor scam. Kejriwal, who leads the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), was detained on March 21, just under a month before the beginning of general elections in India. AAP supporters and other opposition leaders have questioned the timing of the arrest.  

Kejriwal’s detention was preceded by the arrest of Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren in January in a graft case. Soren, who is from the opposition Congress Party, resigned from his post just before he was taken into custody. Earlier, three other AAP leaders were arrested as part of the Delhi liquor scam case. 

Speaking on the upcoming elections, in which he is forecast to secure a third consecutive five-year term in office, Modi expressed confidence the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) could win a majority in the 543-seat parliament. “When was the last time you saw something like this in the entire world, that even after ten years of a government, the masses are engaged to reelect them to power with the same enthusiasm and absolute fervor?” he asked. 

Modi also claimed that the opposition “believes” that the NDA government will return to power, “which is why even several opposition leaders are shying away from poll campaigns.” 

Last week, Indian political strategist Prashant Kishor predicted that the ruling BJP will add significantly to its seats and vote share in south and east India, two regions where it does not currently have substantial representation. However, the strategist predicted that the BJP is unlikely to win the targeted 370 seats.  

Meanwhile, key opposition parties, including the BJP’s major rival, the Congress, have seen as exodus of prominent members ahead of the polls. Dozens of Congress leaders across constituencies have switched allegiance to the BJP in the past few weeks. On Thursday, former Congress spokesman Rohan Gupta joined the BJP, following another spokesman, Gaurav Vallabh, who also quit and joined the ruling party ahead of the general elections.

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