Thousands attend rally to challenge Indian PM ahead of election

Thousands of people have attended a rally organised by an alliance of India’s opposition parties that accused the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of stifling opponents and undermining democratic institutions ahead of a national election next month.

The “Save Democracy” rally was the first major public demonstration by the opposition bloc INDIA against the arrest of New Delhi’s top elected official and opposition leader Arvind Kejriwal on March 21.

Mr Kejriwal was arrested by the federal Enforcement Directorate, which is controlled by Mr Modi’s government, on charges that his party and state ministers had accepted 1 billion rupees (£9.5 million) in bribes from contractors nearly two years ago.

Opposition rally
Supporters from various opposition parties took part in the ‘Save Democracy’ rally (Manish Swarup/AP)

Deepender Singh Hooda, of the opposition Congress party, told reporters at the rally: “This battle is to safeguard the nation, democracy, constitution, future of the nation, youth, farmers and women. This battle is for justice and truth.”

Mr Kejriwal’s arrest is seen as a setback for the opposition bloc that is the main challenger to Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, in the elections to be held over six weeks from April 19.

Opposition supporters
Supporters of the Aam Admi Party wore masks in the likeness of party leader Arvind Kejriwal at the rally (Manish Swarup/AP)

The BJP denies targeting the opposition and says law enforcement agencies act independently.

Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi from the Congress party, who took part in Sunday’s rally, wrote on X: “Narendra Modi wants to strangle democracy and take away the option from the people to choose the government of their choice.”

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