In India, recent moves that stymie the political opposition will likely fire up the ruling party’s base.

By Michael Kugelman

Indian Opposition Figures Arrested Ahead of Vote

Last Thursday, Indian opposition figure Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of the Delhi capital territory, was arrested on corruption charges. The move came just a month before India’s national elections, which are held over several weeks, begin.

The action against Kejriwal followed other arrests of prominent opposition politicians, including three other former senior leaders in Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the former chief minister of the state of Jharkhand. Rahul Gandhi, a top leader of the main opposition Indian National Congress party, was convicted on defamation charges last year for insulting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but the conviction was later suspended by the Indian Supreme Court.

The Congress party said last week that it can’t campaign properly because Indian income tax officials have frozen its bank accounts due to a tax dispute. A recent law also gives the prime minister a seat on the selection committee for the three-member Indian Election Commission; two members recently resigned, and the new system was used to appoint their successors.

Some observers say these developments suggest a nervous Modi is taking steps to better shape the electoral environment in his favor.

However, the Modi government’s recent moves reflect confidence about the election rather than concern. Whether the prime minister genuinely seeks to curb corruption within the political ranks or is simply using it as a pretext to sideline his rivals, he knows that his actions won’t hurt him politically.

Elsewhere in the region, opposition figures facing government crackdowns—such as former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan—enjoy sizable public support, making the measures politically damaging. Aside from Gandhi, the leaders recently targeted in India don’t have massive national followings, and their parties’ clout is geographically limited.

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