In a shocking allegation, TN Minister Senthill Balaji's counsel has alleged to a Chennai Court that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has asked the minister, 'Why don't you join BJP?'. Senthil Balaji has been under ED's watch for the past few months over a draft case in which Senthil Balaji was accused of swindling crores of money by assuring jobs in the Tamil Nadu's transport corporation while he was serving as the Transport Minister during the previous ADMK regime.
Senthil Balaji had later joined DMK and DMK's MK Stalin formed the government in the state in 2021 after which he was made the Minister of Electricity, Prohibition & Excise. In June this year, after nearly 18 hours of raid at his residence, the ED had taken Senthil Balaji under its custody and later, he was sent to Puzhal Central prison. His ministerial portfolios were conferred to other ministers and he was made a Minister without portfolio.
Despite his legal battle to avail bail, the ED has been strengthening the case and the central agency has also been gripping up its search for Senthil Balaji's brother Ashok. In the midst of these developments, Senthil Balaji has been battling for a bail and his bail plea came up for hearing on Friday - September 15 before Chennai district principal sessions court judge S Alli.
It was during this hearing that senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who is representing Senthil Balaji, told the court that the minister was asked by the ED, 'Why don't you join BJP?'. Times of India has quoted Sibal saying in the court, "They were not even shown as witnesses. Only one person has given a statement, but whether his statement is true or false can be tested only in trial. This case was out of political malice."
Recalling Senthil Balaji's hospitalization during ED's arrest and a bypass surgery that he had undergone aftermath, Sibal has highlighted the minister's health condition and said that as per the doctors' opinion, Senthil Balaji could not stand or sit for more than thirty minutes due to which, he must be granted bail. Sibal's remarks that ED had asked Senthil Balaji to join BJP have come at a high time when the central agencies are accused of becoming lapdogs for the Modi regime.
Several opposition leaders have slammed the ED for raiding the residences of the people who are staunchly criticising the BJP regime and on the other hand, the serious cases of the opposition leaders, taken by the ED, were rested after they support or join the BJP. In a similar fashion, Sibal's remarks have sparked a debate whether ED is threatening Senthil Balaji to surrender and join BJP as he has been one of the important leaders of the DMK, being instrumental for the party's success in the state's western belt.
Opposing Senthil Balaji's bail plea, additional solicitor-general ARL Sunderesan, appearing for the ED, said that there was an attempt to compensate victims by the accused. Sunderesan argued, "The proceeds of crime were at least Rs 1.34 crore which was deposited in the bank in installments. There was a plethora of evidence to show the cash-for-jobs scam. If released on bail, the accused will tamper with the witness as he is a minister."
He also argued that the doctors' opinion that he could not sit or stand for long could not be a ground for granting bail. Sunderesan added that the burden of proof was on Senthil Balaji to show that he was not guilty and that he was being treated well by the doctors in the prison hospital. After recording the submissions, Judge Alli extended the judicial custody of the minister till September 29 and adjourned the hearing for orders on September 20.