The people of Tamil Nadu woke up to shocking news; the political drama just got a new twist - Tamil Nadu health minister C Vijayabaskar's residence on Greenways Road was the centre of attraction with the income tax department conducting a raid.
More than 30 places were being raided simultaneously and the minister’s official residence was also one of them.
The residence was an empty sight till 10am in the morning, four hours from the start of the raid, but after that slowly but steadily a large crowd started to gather and the high drama was just about to begin.
First an AIADMK senior leader, Thalavai Sundaram, with a few party cadres - after accusing the central government of pitting itself against the Sasikala faction - forcibly entered Vijayabaskar’s residence.
“Viajayabaskar is our star campaigner and this is an intentional insult that the central government has executed to harass our faction,” said Sundaram, before banging the gates of Vijayabaskar’s residence and arguing with the CRPF and police officials to be given access to the minister’s residence.
Shouting anti-O Panneerselvam slogans and also anti-Modi slogans, state ministers R Kamaraj and Udumalai Radhakrishnan along with Sundaram entered the residence, and this led to a calm situation in the region.
But the volatile nature of the crowd began to show up. Every once in a while all through the day, the angry crowd tried to forcibly enter the premises. From the calm surrounding the residence, it soon turned into an action packed zone with increased deployment of police personnel and placement of barricades to control the crowd.
As the heat and public temperature rose, it was then that the minister himself decided to break his silence. Walking out to the gates of his residence, Vijayabaskar gave a moving statement: “From 4am, when IT officials knocked at my door, I have been cooperating with them as I am a law-abiding citizen. But the IT officials so far have not been able to discover even Rs 10,000 from my residence. I am being harassed; my children aren’t even allowed to go to school.”
"We will have to check why they were allowed when the raids are on," said a senior IT official who came in as reinforcement to the existing officials.
It is still not known how outsiders were allowed to enter the premises while an IT raid was in progress. Also, Vijayabaskar’s press meet is another rule-breaker, according to the Income Tax Act, which does not allow inmates of a raid to communicate with anyone outside.
|As the OPS faction makes cash-for-vote allegations against the Dinakaran side, the Dinakaran faction too has come up with videos and allegations against the OPS side. Photo: PTI|
Meanwhile, the residence of actor-turned-politician Sarath Kumar, who had pledged his support to the Sasikala faction only yesterday, witnessed an IT raid too. “I did not want to join hands with the DMK and hence chose to join the AIADMK. Maybe it was god’s will that we join hands and this raid is just a ploy to stop our campaign,” said Sarath.
As the day wore on, it was seen that the policemen who were present at Vijayabaskar’s residence were silent spectators to the partymen abusing and raising slogans against Narendra Modi and Panneerselvam.
“They have realised that it will be difficult for them to win the RK Nagar poll, and that the people are with (Sasikala's nephew) TTV Dinakaran. This is just a ploy of the Modi government to insult our leaders,” said Mariamma, an angry supporter of the Sasikala faction.
“Why is the raid conducted just days before the election? We know the reason. It is to disrupt the campaign, the by-poll and to make the voter think that we are doing something wrong. Our leaders are Amma’s followers and they will do only the right thing,” said another party worker, Kanan, outside the minster’s house.
The by-poll at RK Nagar is to be held on April 12, but there is fear among many that recent developments might lead to postponement of the election. In fact, Mafoi Pandiarajan of AIADMK’s OPS faction had said: “We made a complaint about the cash campaign being conducted by the TTV Dinakaran side. We have requested the Election Commission to cancel the candidature but not the polls.”
As the OPS faction makes cash-for-vote allegations against the Dinakaran side, the Dinakaran faction too has come up with videos and allegations against the OPS side.
Meanwhile, Apsara Reddy, a spokesperson of the AIADMK-Sasikala faction, questioned: "We have seen that only Sasikala supporters are being raided and what about the OPS faction? OPS is a person who is alleged to have close connections with Shekar Reddy. Why is there no raid on him? Is the central government taking sides?"
The RK Nagar seat is seen by all major parties as THE battle ground, as it will be the first time the people’s choice will come to the forefront after former chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s demise. The necessity for the factions to prove to themselves as the actual AIADMK has also caused a lot of trouble.
While the OPS faction has taken the extreme step of taking a dummy coffin of Jaya’s to the campaign, the TTV Dinakaran side has rehashed old campaign videos. It is very clear that the competitors per se don’t have a face value, but are dependent on the Amma charisma to influence the masses - and both the sides have decided to stoop to any low to ensure they get what they want.