Hours after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) conducted raids at several places in Chennai Tamil Nadu minister V Senthil Balaji was arrested on 13 June. Post arrest, the DMK minister fell unconscious and reportedly underwent a coronary angiogram.
On Wednesday, 14 June, Tamil Nadu Government Multi Super Specialty Hospital advised him to undergo a bypass surgery at the earliest.
Balaji’s wife, S Megala, reportedly filed a habeas corpus plea before the Madras High Court on Wednesday following his sudden arrest. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin charged the ED officials of enacting a drama in the name of enquiry and accused them of physically and mentally troubling Balaji, LiveMint reported.
On the heels of the TN Minister’s arrest, the Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday withdrew general consent given to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate in the state, The Indian Express reported. The DMK government highlighted that nine other Indian states, including West Bengal, Telangana, and Rajasthan, have already withdrawn general consent for the CBI, which they call a precaution against misuse of central agencies.
The charges against Balaji date back to his tenure as the transport minister during the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) regime from 2011-16.
Tamil Nadu Minister Ma Subramanian had earlier told reporters:
"Senthil Balaji's arrest is a murder of democracy. This has been done to corner DMK, before Parliament Elections. No procedures were followed in the arrest...BJP is trying to create a fake narrative that DMK is a corrupt party. They are trying to do this with the help of institutions like ED."Ma Subramanian, Minister for Health and Family Welfare of Tamil Nadu
Who Is Senthil Balaji?
A four-time MLA, Senthil Balaji is a prominent politician who hails from a farming family. Born on 21 October 1975, Balaji hails from Rameswarapatti in Karur district, Tamil Nadu. He studied in Rameswarapatti Government School, Vivekananda School in Pasupathypalayam, and Municipal Secondary School in Karur.
His political career dates back to 1997 when he became a local body member. He has been very actively involved in politics since the early 2000s.
Balaji made his electoral debut in 2006 under the J Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK government. He continued to be in AIADMK till his move to the DMK in 2018. He is currently the minister for electricity and excise and prohibition.
Balaji quit AIADMK after serving as the Minister for Transport of the Government of Tamil Nadu from 2011 to 2015. Though he was dropped from the cabinet in July 2015, he continued to support the AIADMK. After former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's demise in 2016, Balaji played a significant role in safeguarding the image of the AIADMK government.
However, when the AIADMK split into factions, Balaji supported the V K Sasikala-TTV Dhinakaran faction.
In 2017, Balaji was one of the 18 MLAs who were disqualified by the then Speaker P Dhanapal for petitioning the then Governor Banwarilal Purohit informing him that they have no confidence in the chief minister.
First Arrest of a Sitting Minister in Years
Balaji is well-known for being the mastermind behind 2013’s Amma Water Initiative, which focused on providing affordable drinking water and setting up e-seva centres,through which the public could access free government services, in Karur.
Balaji rose up the ladder in the DMK soon after joining the party. He was appointed as the district secretary, later stood for by-election in the Aravakurichi constituency, and won the MLA seat for the fourth time in 2019. He then won the assembly elections held in April 2021, on a DMK ticket.
The arrest of Balaji has had some impact on the ruling DMK government in Tamil Nadu, with the party condemning the "Centre's pressure tactics" against regional party leaders. Balaji is the first sitting minister to be arrested from TN in the recent past by a central agency.