Bharatiya Janata Party’s Meghalaya unit Vice President Bernard Marak was on Wednesday arrested on allegations of forcibly increasing prices of food items in Tura city, The Print reported.

Marak, the vice-president of the BJP’s Meghalaya unit, is already in police custody in connection with two other cases registered against him. He has been accused of running a brothel and storing explosives and weapons at his farmhouse on the outskirts of Tura.

In a statement on August 23, the Meghalaya Police had said that residents of Tura have complained about rising prices of fruits, vegetables, meat and other food commodities.

“The prices were hiked a few months back based on the instigation of office bearers of an organisation which claims to be the ‘Meghalaya Chamber of Commerce’ being operated under the directions of one Bernard N. Marak,” the police had said.

On Tuesday, the Tura chief judicial magistrate allowed the police to arrest Marak. The magistrate sent the BJP leader to police custody for five days, according to The Meghalayan.

The police alleged that the Meghalaya Chamber of Commerce had been extorting large amounts of money from shopkeepers in the name of membership fees and monthly renewal fees. The organisation had been threatening non-tribal business owners to either get a no-objection certificate from Marak or risk not having their licences renewed, the authorities added.

“Further, there was also arm-twisting as they pressured the shopkeepers to raise the prices,” West Garo Hills Superintendent of Police Vivekanand Singh said, according to The Print.

The Meghalaya Chamber of Commerce, however, said on August 24 that the allegations were baseless, The Shillong Times reported.

“The MCC is an elected body of both tribal and non-tribal members,” the organisation’s general secretary Anish M Sangma said. “It has no role to play in price fixation or is involved in the price hike of any consumer or food items like snacks, vegetables, fish, meat, fruits, eggs, sweets, confectionaries etc in Garo Hills.”

Marak is an elected member of the Garo Hill Autonomous District Council and has recently been in the news for criticising the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government. His party, the BJP, is an alliance partner of the Conrad Sangma-led National People’s Party in the government.

Marak has accused Sangma of misusing the government machinery to settle personal scores with him.