Amid heavy security and patrolling, Tamil Nadu’s Electricity Minister Senthil Balaji was admitted to Omandurar government hospital in Chennai. After the arrest, Balaji complained of chest discomfort, and his medical check-up was done. The ED believes that he is the “prime suspect” in the cash-for-jobs case and informed a local court that he “misused” his office for illegal gratification and “engineered” a job racket scam in the state transport undertakings during 2014–15 with purported bribes paid by candidates through his associates.
Balaji was sent to judicial custody until June 28. After an 18-hour interrogation and multiple searches across different parts of Chennai and Tamil Nadu, Balaji was arrested in the early hours of Wednesday. Balaji tried his level best to avoid arrest, but the ED was determined to cage him for further investigations. Calling him the “prime suspect” in the cash-for-jobs case, the federal probe agency also stated in its custody papers that alleged unaccounted cash deposits worth about Rs 1.60 crore were made in the bank accounts of Balaji and his wife.
The case is linked to a job-for-cash scam in the state’s transport department, which allegedly occurred during Balaji’s tenure as transport minister in the AIADMK regime from 2011–16. The case was booked in March 2021, on the eve of the Assembly elections, when Chennai police filed a chargesheet against Balaji and 46 others, which included senior retired and serving officers of various transport corporations. The charges related to a recruitment scam that shook the state in 2014–15.
Balaji, along with his brother R V Ashok Kumar, PA B Shanmugam, and a person identified as M Karthikeyan, “contrived” with the managing directors of all state transport undertakings (STU) and other officers of transport corporations to obtain “illegal gratification” from candidates to recruit them as drivers, conductors, junior assistants, junior engineers, and assistant engineers in the transport corporation (during 2014-15). The ED said that the alleged unaccounted cash deposits worth about Rs 1.60 crore were made in the bank accounts of Balaji and his wife.
In every state other than BJP, leaders were caught in the trap of the ED and CBI; they were raided and arrested; some see this arrest as a political vendetta. Every regional political party has faced such a situation. It has become a small price they pay for being in politics. Balaji’s medical reports show that he has three main arteries blocked and needs bypass surgery. There is an “escalation in targeting” of opposition leaders. Central agencies were first “weaponized” in J&K and later replicated in the rest of the country. The ED raids are not just limited to Tamil Nadu but have happened in Maharashtra and Karnataka as well.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, CPI general secretary D Raja, and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah slammed the BJP over Tamil Nadu minister Senthil Balaji’s arrest. Kejriwal and Raja said opposition-ruled states were being targeted by central probe agencies like the CBI and ED. ED and CBI are not going after corrupt people anymore; all corrupt people are getting refuge in the BJP, and agencies attack those who are not part of the BJP.
D. Raja, meanwhile, pointed out that the raid took place a few days after Union Home Minister Amit Shah claimed the BJP would win 25 Lok Sabha seats during a visit to Tamil Nadu. “After the Karnataka elections, the discontent of people against the BJP is visible, and the BJP has become desperate. That is why they are doing unconstitutional things. The BJP can try hard to harass their opponents, but there is no political scope for them in Tamil Nadu.