The Enforcement Directorate works independently and without the interference of the Union government, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an interview on Sunday.

During an interview with Thanthi TV, the prime minister asked whether the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government had established the Enforcement Directorate or introduced the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.

“They were there before our government was formed,” he said.

Modi made the comments while responding to a question on allegations that the Union government was misusing central agencies to “persecute” the Opposition.

The prime minister reiterated that the Enforcement Directorate worked independently. “Neither do we stop them, nor do we send them,” he said.

He also claimed that there were close to 7,000 cases registered with the central agency and “less than 3% of them were related to politicians”.

Modi said that the Enforcement Directorate had seized around Rs 35 lakh during the 10 years when the Congress-led United Progress Alliance was in power at the Centre. “Now the Enforcement Directorate has seized black money worth Rs 2,200 crore,” he said.

Claiming that illegal funds had been seized from a Congress MP and several ministers in West Bengal, Modi asked whether the citizens of India would tolerate corruption. “I think they will not,” he added.

The prime minister also alleged that Rs 3,000 crore had been seized in West Bengal and that efforts were being made to see if the money could be diverted back to the individuals that it had been illegally taken from. He said that Rs 17,000 crore had already been returned to individuals.

Modi, while responding to a question about allegations raised by the Opposition on the central agencies’ inaction against BJP leaders, said that investigations were done regardless of political affiliations.

“The Enforcement Directorate cannot initiate any case on its own; various departments need to file the cases first, then the agency takes action,” said Modi. “The PMLA [Prevention of Money Laundering Act] law has existed since before, but they [Opposition] did not use it.”

He added: “On one side there are people who want to save the corrupt and on the other side is Modi who wants to remove corruption.”

On March 23, a delegation of leaders from the Opposition INDIA bloc met the Election Commissioners to register their protest against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest and the freezing of the Congress’ bank accounts ahead of general elections.

The Opposition Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, or the INDIA bloc, is a coalition of Opposition parties that is taking on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in the elections.

The delegation demanded that the poll panel intervene to stop the “targeting of Opposition leaders” by the ruling BJP through the “misuse” of central investigative agencies, ANI reported. They alleged that the BJP was resorting to “unrelenting, blatant and illegal deployment of central agencies” in a bid to stifle the Opposition.

Kejriwal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on March 21 in connection with the Delhi liquor policy case.

On March 21, the Congress had said that the Income Tax Department had frozen all its bank accounts ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.