March 29, 2024


Can Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) survive Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest?

(Image credit: Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, GODL-India, via Wikimedia Commons)

A week can be a long time in politics. The past week has been eventful for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and its head, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. He was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on corruption charges in connection with Delhi’s liquor policy. He and the party have put the blame squarely on the BJP.

We’re only a few weeks away from the Lok Sabha elections. The timing of this arrest has raised eyebrows as the AAP and Kejriwal have staunchly rejected any wrongdoing. While the BJP continues to deny political interference through investigative agencies like the ED, the question is, what’s next for the AAP? Can the party survive going into the polls?


Kejriwal’s arrest is the third high-profile arrest of an AAP leader connected to the case. It came after the Delhi High Court refused to grant him protection from arrest in the liquor policy case.

But what’s the case all about? Back in 2021, the Delhi government introduced a new excise policy to modernise liquor sales in the national capital. It received mixed reviews. Some liked its progressive approach, while others were concerned about its financial and public health implications.

In July 2022, Delhi’s Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar reported violations in the policy to Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena. He recommended an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The report alleged ₹580 crore in financial losses to the exchequer.

The ED alleged that the policy was purposely designed with loopholes to favour AAP leaders, accusing them of getting kickbacks from liquor businesses in exchange for licenses, preferential treatment, fee waivers, etc. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and three others were raided by the CBI. It named Sisodia and 14 others accused in its FIR. The ED told a court that proceeds from the alleged scam amounted to over ₹292 crore.

The ED then turned its lens on Kejriwal and accused him of personally engaging with important individuals, urging them to get involved with others. From October 2023 to March 2024, Kejriwal received nine summons from the ED but ignored them. With no relief from the High Court, he was arrested.

Ever since Sisodia was arrested last February, the AAP has been under the gun as this case just wouldn’t go away. The AAP has tried its best to counter the claims and blamed the BJP with a money trail. They alleged that Aurobindo Pharma director Sharath Chandra Reddy, arrested in 2022 in connection with the liquor case, donated to the BJP through electoral bonds.

While the case will be decided in the court of law, questions remain on what’s going to happen in the court of public opinion. That’s where the rubber meets the road as far as the AAP’s electoral prospects are concerned. Will it sink or swim?

VIEW: Down but not out

Kejriwal’s arrest by the ED might not play out the way the BJP hopes it would. While the government might see this as a win, it won’t be similar to Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s arrest. He resigned before he was arrested. Even though Kejriwal is in custody, he’s unlikely to resign. If Kejriwal is known for anything, it’s that he isn’t afraid to take on the ED or the Centre. That trickles down to the party cadre and apparatus. They won’t shy away from a fight.

And fight they have in the past few years, particularly with Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor, the Delhi BJP, and even the Congress party. AAP is arguably at its best when it’s playing offence, and the arrest is a prime opportunity for that. A recent CVoter survey showed that 52% believe the arrest could generate sympathy for the AAP. The party has played it smart by portraying the arrest of Kejriwal as a tyrannical act; something that only happens in autocracies.

AAP has always considered itself the underdog since it burst onto the scene over a decade ago. For the past decade, Delhi has remained something of a bastion for the AAP and Kejriwal. Voters have supported the party’s “welfare first” style of politics, working to improve things like the public healthcare and education system. Punjab is another state where the arrest could garner sympathy for the AAP. With a limited Hindu base, the BJP is weak here.

COUNTERVIEW: Hard to recover

There’s no doubt the arrest is a big blow to the AAP and helps the BJP and Modi with its zero corruption campaign. It’s probably the biggest crisis faced by the AAP since its inception. Kejriwal, Sisodia, along with other notable leaders like Sanjay Singh and Satyendra Jain, also behind bars, were instrumental in expanding the party’s footprint beyond Delhi. That leaves the party with very little to no heavy hitters as poll day arrives.

Ironically, the party that began as an anti-corruption movement is now at the centre of its own corruption scandal. The AAP doesn’t have the institutional robustness to fall back on. The party, for the most part, was centred around Kejriwal, for better or worse. That consolidation didn’t make everyone happy, with leaders like Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav deciding to leave. When a party faces a crisis, some leaders come to the fore. That’s unlikely to be the case for the AAP.

Delhi will be the first battleground for the AAP. The AAP said Kejriwal will run the government from jail. It shows the party’s inherent weakness and goes back to Kejriwal’s consolidation of power. Perhaps Kejriwal doesn’t trust anyone else to take the reins. It’s also a bad tactic. It could play into the BJP’s hands. One could easily see a situation where the Centre invokes Article 356 to impose President’s Rule.

Reference Links:

  • Explained: What is Delhi excise policy case and why was Kejriwal arrested? – Business Standard
  • Decode Politics: How Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest may play out politically — for AAP, Opposition – The Indian Express
  • By Arresting Arvind Kejriwal, Has BJP Given Delhi 2025 to AAP on a Platter? – The Quint
  • End Of The Road For AAP? Seven Questions After Kejriwal’s Arrest – NDTV
  • Kejriwal’s Arrest: Will AAP survive its biggest crisis or disintegrate? – Moneycontrol
  • With Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest, AAP faces a crisis of its own making – The Indian Express

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) can survive Kejriwal’s arrest.

b) The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) can’t survive Kejriwal’s arrest.


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