Indian opposition member Saket Gokhale arrested by Gujarat Police for third time in a month

Indian opposition member Saket Gokhale has been arrested by the police in the western state of Gujarat for the third time this month, a move that is being described by critics as a crackdown on dissent by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.

Mr Gokhale is a national spokesperson for opposition Trinamool Congress Party that is in power in eastern West Bengal state-led by India’s only woman chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is a vocal opponent of prime minister Narendra Modi and his party.

According to police officials, Mr Gokhale was arrested by the Ahmedabad cyber crime branch in connection with a case of alleged misuse of money collected through crowdfunding, reported news agency Press Trust of India.

This is the third time that Mr Gokhale has been arrested by police in Mr Modi’s home state.

He was first arrested on 6 December after he shared a clip about information purportedly obtained through the Right to Information Act claiming that the prime minister’s visit to Morbi, Gujarat, after a bridge collapsed cost the country ₹30 crore (£3m)

In October, over 130 people were killed after a bridge collapse in Morbi, in one of the worst disasters in recent years.

The 230m-long bridge, built during the British colonial rule in the 1800s, had been closed for six months and reopened just a week before it snapped.

It was opened on 26 October on Gujarati new year without a fitness certificate from civic authorities, reported Indian broadcaster NDTV.

After he received bail from a local court, Mr Gokhale was re-arrested on 8 December by police in Morbi for the same offence.

He was subsequently granted bail the next day.

The BJP government, which came back to power in this month’s state assembly elections, has been criticised for cracking down on voices of dissent.

His party colleague and parliamentarian Mahua Moitra said in a tweet: “Within a span of just 15 days, TMC Nat’l Spokesperson @SaketGokhale has been arrested thrice.

“Harassment of this kind never pays in long run. People can see through this and opposition emerges stronger.”

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Delhi University professor Apoorvanand wrote: “This year end action is a warning to all vocal critics of the regime. Much more than curbing the freedom of expression.”

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Earlier this week, Mr Gokhale had lashed out at the BJP government against his repeated arrests.

“Flouting the law & taking people into illegal custody Gestapo-style in the middle of the night to transport them across state lines has become a hallmark of the BJP.

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Like I’d said - I’ll fight. And fight stronger than ever,” he said.