Kejriwal, Omar Abdullah, D Raja slam Tamil Nadu minister's arrest by ED
NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: Tamil Nadu Electricity Minister V Senthil Balaji's arrest by the Enforcement Directorate has drawn sharp reactions from several opposition leaders, who accused the ruling BJP of targeting rival party leaders.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, CPI general secretary D Raja and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah are among those who have slammed the Tamil Nadu minister's arrest.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested Balaji under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA)after a long session of questioning, officials said, even as the 47-year-old minister was admitted to a city government hospital after he complained of uneasiness.
Addressing a press conference, Kejriwal and Raja on Wednesday condemned Balaji's arrest saying Opposition-ruled states were being targeted by central probe agencies like CBI and ED.
"CBI and ED should be renamed as 'BJP's Army'. We condemn the raid and arrest of a minister in Tamil Nadu. The manner in which the arrest has been made is also very objectionable," Kejriwal said.
"ED and CBI are not going after corrupt people anymore, all corrupt people are getting refuge in BJP," the AAP leader said.
"There was a time when these investigative agencies were respected.
When they used to raid somewhere or arrest someone, it seemed that person must have done something wrong.
Today, these agencies have become only political weapons of BJP," he said.
Kejriwal added that BJP would still not win any seats in Tamil Nadu.
Raja, meanwhile, pointed out that the raid took place a few days after Union Home Minister Amit Shah claimed the BJP would win 25 Lok Sabha seats during a visit to Tamil Nadu.
"It's highly objectionable that ED can go inside the Secretariat. If the BJP thinks they can win seats in Tamil Nadu by doing this, they are living in a fool's paradise. Tamil Nadu will not allow BJP," he said.
"After the Karnataka elections, the discontent of people against BJP is visible, and the BJP has become desperate.
That is why they are doing unconstitutional things," he added.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir-based National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also condemned the arrest and said they stood in solidarity with the DMK and Balaji.
NC vice president Omar Abdullah slammed ED sleuths' "behaviour" during the arrest.
"Tell me in which state has this not happened and which political party has not faced it.
It has become a small price we pay for being in politics," Abdullah told reporters at Magam in central Kashmir Budgam district.
"We strongly condemn the way they (ED personnel) behaved with the minister.
Today the medical reports show that he has three main arteries are blocked and he needs a bypass surgery.
I think the central government and these agencies should rethink about their behaviour," Abdullah added.
NC spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar said there was a growing concern over the "escalation in targeting" of opposition leaders.
On being asked if the ED action on Balaji was part of a pattern, which included the questioning of NC president Farooq Abdullah, Dar said it was a "political witch-hunt".
"If there was any micro-element of involvement of Abdullah, there would have been enough evidence to chargesheet him, but there is none.
If the agencies have anything substantial with them, they should bring it to the public domain," he said.
"But, when it is a political witch-hunt, the NC will always raise its voice because this is a concern that actually targets the democracy, the very basic routes of democracy in the country," the NC spokesperson said.
The PDP said central agencies were first "weaponised" in J&K and later replicated in the rest of the country.
PDP spokesperson Najmus Saqib said the central government has become a threat to its own institutions.
"This is for the first time in the history of India that we see a government becoming a threat to its institutions," Saqib said.
Saqib also said that the BJP's earlier call for a "Congress-mukt Bharat" has now extended to eliminating "every regional party and all kinds of opposition".
"There is a serious assault on every institution and this is a make-or-break moment for India.
If there is a serious recession in the democratic ideals of the country, I think, we are in for big trouble," he added.