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Indian opposition leader arrested in corruption probe months ahead of upcoming elections

Indian opposition leader arrested in corruption probe months ahead of upcoming elections Hemant Soren (Getty Images)

Hemant Soren, who is the opposition leader in India and the chief minister of Jharkhand state in India, was arrested over a corruption case just hours after he left the position. He is one of many opposition leaders under investigation by India's central agencies, while his arrest took place a few months before the country's elections, according to Bloomberg and BBC.

After being questioned by the investigative agency, Soren resigned as the chief minister on Wednesday. Soren appointed Champai Soren, a veteran party leader unrelated to him, as his replacement after consulting with legislative members of his party.

Soren was taken into custody by the Enforcement Directorate, which is the national agency dealing with money laundering. The arrest is related to a case about suspected fraudulent activities involving land. The ED says he bought it with illegally obtained funds by selling land owned by the Indian army. Soren denies accusations, saying the property was wrongly alleged to be his.

The ED officials allegedly sent multiple summons, but Soren did not appear for questioning. After they went to his Delhi residence, they found him missing, seizing money and a car. The next day, Soren appeared in Ranchi.

The further details of the case are not public yet, and no formal charges have been filed. He has petitioned the Supreme Court, asking for an urgent hearing to challenge his arrest.

Opposition in India

Soren's political party, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, runs the state in collaboration with the Indian National Congress. They are also part of the opposition coalition called I.N.D.I.A, formed to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming national elections in April and May.

This arrest is unusual, as Soren is the first sitting head of a regional party to be arrested without formal charges being filed. Leaders from Soren's party and the opposition say that the arrest is politically motivated, accusing the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of trying to intimidate the opposition.

Congress party also condemned Soren's arrest, calling it a "blow to federalism". They accuse the ruling BJP of trying to destroy democracy.

"The BJP, which is steeped in corruption, is running a campaign to destroy democracy," Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on X.

The BJP denies targeting opposition groups, emphasizing that the government is investigating corruption or fraud allegations against politicians regardless of their political affiliations.

Other opposition leaders also face corruption charges. In November, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was summoned, and his party members were arrested. The ED is also investigating money laundering allegations against chief ministers of southern states, who deny the charges.

We also reported that Imran Khan, who used to be Prime Minister of Pakistan, and his wife, Bushra Bibi, have been sentenced to 14 years in jail, accused of corruption. The politician faces rulings just a week before the country's elections, set for February 8.