The three weeks of the hide and seek had ended with the Tamil Nadu police succeeding in the mission of apprehending former ADMK Minister Rajenthra Bhalaji, who was accused of cheating to the tune of Rs 3 crore and one of the complainants is his former associate. While former ADMK Ministers had faced raids from the state's anti-corruption agency, Rajenthra Bhalaji has become the first former ADMK Minister to get arrested by the police led by the DMK government.
Rajenthra Bhalaji, often known to be one of the controversial figures in Tamil Nadu, had served as the Minister of Dairy Development in the previous ADMK regime led by Edappadi Palaniswami. In November last year, the police department of Bhalaji's home district - Virudhunagar had registered cheating cases against him under the grounds that he had cheated and swindled money from many people over giving fake promises of awarding government jobs, while he was serving as the minister.
Fearing that he would be apprehended, the former minister had moved his anticipatory bail to the Madras High Court to evade the arrest. His plea came to the hearing on December 17 only to get completely dismissed as the police had affirmed that they had strong evidence against Rajenthra Bhalaji that he had cheated and swindled money. After learning that he would be neared by the police, he began to run and the more he had progressed to evade the arrest, the more were the disappointments for the Tamil Nadu police.
After knowing that Rajenthra Bhalaji had absconded, the Virudhunagar Superintendent of Police had issued an arrest warrant against the former minister and formed eight special teams to arrest him. The police department had also issued a lookout notice against him at the airports. However, despite the intensified manhunt, Bhalaji had his run ahead and the special teams had searched across the state and even gone to Delhi with the information that he was under the refuge of BJP leaders. After three weeks of search, Rajenthra Bhalaji's run has come to an end on January 5 as he was finally arrested by the police in Karnataka.
Ground report on how the police had nabbed him in Karnataka:
Rajenthra Bhalaji, after the rejection of his anticipatory bail, had absconded and he had been travelling to the neighbouring states. Our sources say Rajenthra Bhalaji had kept changing his car every thirty kilometres and he had even changed his route often. He was on run and had visited Villupuram, Tirupathur, Dharmapuri, and Bengaluru during his hiding mission and besides receiving support from the local ADMK functionaries, our sources had said that Rajenthra Bhalaji had received inputs from the policemen, who were close to him, on the next course of action.
Former ADMK Minister KP Anbalagan had extended his help and support to his former colleague and Anbalagan's associates Arumugam and Ponnuvelu in Dharmapuri drove Rajenthra Bhalaji till Bengaluru railway station and from there he had planned to go to Delhi. During the investigation, the police team had taken Arumugam and Ponnuvelu for investigation. On the other hand, Rajenthra Bhalaji had cancelled his Delhi plan and instead, he travelled towards Hosur, Tamil Nadu.
He was staying at the residence of Ramakrishnan, who is a BJP secretary in the Krishnagiri district. From there, he had travelled to Chikkaballapur in Karnataka, where he stayed in the residence of Ramakrishnan's relative. Based on the confession from Arumugam and Ponnuvelu, the Tamil Nadu police team led by West Zone IG Sudhakar had traced Ramakrishnan's phone during which the officials received a potential tip-off that Rajenthra Bhalaji was hiding in Karnataka.
Our sources say Rajenthra Bhalaji is habitual of visiting temples and after visiting Dharmasthala Manjunatha Temple, he was travelling in a car for a medical checkup and when he arrived in Hasan, the police team surrounded him. Shocked to see the police officers, Rajenthra Bhalaji had no way to flee and his run came to an end on January 5. He was seen wearing a t-shirt and saffron dhoti and he was taken into custody, the day ahead of his anticipatory plea was scheduled to come to hearing before the Supreme Court.
Timeline of events:
- 10 am on January 5: The special team had surrounded Rajenthra Bhalaji and the former ADMK minister neither opposed nor shouted at the police. He stayed calm and was responding to the directives of the police officers.
- Following the arrest, the Tamil Nadu police had begun the process of bringing him to Tamil Nadu. Rajenthra Bhalaji was produced before the Hasan District Magistrate and acquired the consent to take him to Tamil Nadu.
- 12.45 pm on January 5: The special team headed by IG Sudhakar, that arrested the former minister, had handed him over to the Virudhunagar police department in Athipalli, Krishnagiri. The Virudhunagar police had filed cheating cases against him.
- The police had held a brief enquiry on the way towards Virudhunagar during which Rajenthra Bhalaji has said that he had travelled to Kerala and Andhra Pradesh before coming to Karnataka.
- Around 8 pm: Rajenthra Bhalaji and others who got arrested with him including Ramakrishnan were made to have dinner.
- Around 1.15 am on January 6: The police convoy with Rajenthra Bhalaji had arrived in the Crime Branch department office in Virudhunagar. The car that he used to travel in Karnataka was also taken into custody and the police officers had searched the car and seized a pile of money and his belongings.
- Around 4.30 am: Rajenthra Bhalaji was taken to the Virudhunagar government hospital for a medical check-up.
- 7.50 am: The former ADMK Minister was produced before the combined courts in Srivilliputhur, Virudhunagar. After the hearing, the court had ordered the police to remand Rajenthra Bhalaji in judicial custody for 15 days till January 20. He has currently been lodged at Trichy Central prison.
On the other hand, Rajenthra Bhalaji's bail petition has come to hearing before the Supreme Court bench and on Saturday- January 8, the Tamil Nadu government has opposed his bail petition and said, "The cheating case was filed against Rajenthra Bhalaji based on the complaints from the people who were deceived by him. The Madras High Court has dismissed his bail petition on the basis of having strong evidence against him and the seriousness of the case.
By citing that there has been no political vendetta in his arrest, the Tamil Nadu government said that it has been receiving several complaints against him. It further said that if Rajenthra Bhalaji, who had served as a minister for ten years, is granted relief, there are possibilities that he will threaten the witnesses and would destroy evidence, which will change and affect the direction of the case. The DMK government has appealed to the apex court to dismiss his petition.