Protests erupt in India after minister's arrest in liquor probe
NEW DELHI (Reuters) -Members of a leading political party held protests across India on Monday, after one of their main leaders, a top minister in Delhi's city government, was arrested by a federal agency over allegations of corruption.
Several hundred party workers gathered amid a heavy police presence in Delhi around the party's headquarters, with more than a hundred protesters in Mumbai and Chandigarh. There were also demonstrations in Bhopal, Gandhinagar and other cities.
Manish Sisodia, the Aam Aadmi Party's second-in-command and Delhi's deputy chief minister, will remain in the custody of the state-run Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for five days for questioning, under orders from a Delhi court on Monday, his lawyer said.
The agency is investigating allegations that a liquor policy implemented by the Delhi government last year, which ended government control over sale of liquor in the capital, gave undue advantages to private retailers.
The policy was subsequently withdrawn.
"Manish is innocent. His arrest is dirty politics," Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi's chief minister and head of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said in a tweet hours after Sisodia's arrest.
Sisodia and his party have denied wrongdoing and see the case as an attempt to smear opponents of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of national elections next year, in which Modi is seeking a third term.
Sambit Patra, a spokesperson for BJP, which rules the federal government, denied allegations of political interference on Sunday.
India's financial crime-fighting agency, the Enforcement Directorate is separately investigating French liquor major Pernod Ricard for allegedly violating the same liquor policy.
The AAP, whose name means "common man" in Hindi, emerged out of an anti-corruption movement in 2011 and has become a staunch critic of Modi.
After coming to power in Delhi in 2013, the AAP swept state assembly elections in the northern state of Punjab and gained a few seats in Modi's home state Gujarat last year.
(Reporting by Arpan Chaturvedi and Shivam Patel; writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Michael Perry and Bernadette Baum)