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India election: top Modi critic Arvind Kejriwal urges compatriots to battle ‘dictatorship’

A top opponent of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged his compatriots to resist “dictatorship” on Saturday, after the country’s top court provisionally released him from jail to campaign in the ongoing general election.

Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of the capital Delhi and a key leader in an opposition alliance formed to compete against Modi in the polls, was granted bail on Friday after weeks in custody.

He is among several leaders of the bloc under criminal investigation, with his party describing his arrest as a “political conspiracy” orchestrated by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to sideline its opponents ahead of the vote.

In a defiant press conference the day after his release, Kejriwal said the outcome of the election would determine whether India remained a democracy.

“I have come to beg 1.4 billion people to save my country,” he said. “Save my country from this dictatorship.”

Kejriwal also personally accused the prime minister of targeting his opponents with criminal probes.

“Modi has started a very dangerous mission,” he said. “Modi will send all opposition leaders to jail.”

Kejriwal’s government was accused of corruption when it liberalised the sale of liquor in 2021 and gave up a lucrative government stake in the sector.

The policy was withdrawn the following year, but the resulting probe into the alleged corrupt allocation of licences has since led to the jailing of two top Kejriwal allies.

Rallies in support of Kejriwal, who refused to relinquish his post after his arrest, were held in numerous other big cities around India after he was taken into custody.

More than 1,000 cheering supporters greeted him as he walked free from the capital’s Tihar Jail on Friday night.

Kejriwal, 55, has been chief