Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday said that he would not resign from his post as this would give the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government a “free hand” to target more Opposition leaders, PTI reported.

Kejriwal was arrested on March 21 by the Enforcement Directorate in the Delhi liquor policy case. He was released from Delhi’s Tihar jail on May 10 on interim bail granted by the Supreme Court. The court has directed him to surrender on June 2, a day after voting for the Lok Sabha elections ends.

In an interview with the news agency on Wednesday, the Aam Aadmi Party national convener said: “If I resign, it will set such a precedent that they will arrest West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee someday and ask her to resign…they will also arrest Tamil Nadu Chief Minister [MK] Stalin and ask him to resign.”

“So wherever BJP loses elections, the chief ministers of Opposition-ruled states will be arrested,” said Kejriwal. He added that the Centre would then move to topple the state governments, which is “very dangerous for democracy”.

He said that he had voluntarily resigned as the chief minister in 2013. But he did not give up the post after his arrest “deliberately as it is part of my struggle”.

Kejriwal pointed out that according to the law, a person convicted with two years of imprisonment is barred from contesting the Assembly elections. As he has not been convicted yet, he said, he can contest polls and become a minister or chief minister while in jail.

“We will go to the court and urge it to provide facilities [in jail] in order to fulfil the responsibilities of the chief minister,” said Kejriwal.

He also said that the BJP was indulging in “drama” about the liquor policy case.

“They [BJP] are saying it is a Rs 100 crore excise scam and for the last few weeks, they have started saying it is a Rs 1,100 crore scam,” said the chief minister. “Where has all this money gone? Was even a penny was recovered, any jewellery was recovered…there is no evidence. This case has been forged to arrest us.”

A day after he was arrested, the Aam Aadmi Party leader told India Today that he would run the Delhi government from jail if needed. His party has also maintained that he would not give up his post.

“It was decided that CM Kejriwal will not resign from the post, and ministers, MLAs and the party will continue to take his orders from jail,” the Aam Aadmi Party’s organisational secretary Sandeep Pathak had said two days after Kejriwal’s arrest.

The Delhi government had also announced that its public services, social welfare schemes and subsidies will not be affected by the chief minister’s arrest.

The BJP, meanwhile, has demanded Kejriwal’s resignation.

“Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is in jail,” BJP leader and MP Dr Harsh Vardhan had told PTI on March 26. “Therefore, he should resign morally and give his responsibility to someone else. Arvind Kejriwal still holding his position shows that he is greedy and does not want to leave his chair because of his insecurity.”

BJP MP Manoj Tiwari had told the news agency that one can run a gang from jail but not a government.

Liquor policy case

The Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate have alleged that Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party government in November 2021 modified the now-scrapped liquor excise policy to ensure a 12% profit margin for wholesalers and a nearly 185% profit margin for retailers.

The Enforcement Directorate also claims that members of a so-called South Group had paid at least Rs 100 crore in kickbacks to leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party through businessman Vijay Nair.

The Enforcement Directorate alleged that in return, the “South Group secured uninhibited access, attained stakes in established wholesale businesses and multiple retail zones [over and above what was allowed in the policy]”.