The ruling AIADMK, which is still smarting from the frontal attack launched by BJP president Amit Shah recently — he had branded the State government as one of the most corrupt in the country — has strangely been defensive on the Income Tax searches on the premises of a leading highways contractor.
The I-T Department searches targeted a highway contractor, perceived in certain quarters to be close to Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, who has been holding the portfolio of Highways for seven years. The department has claimed to have seized huge amounts of cash and gold during its operations.
Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar conceded that a relative of the Chief Minister (son’s father-in-law) was linked to the contractor’s firm but said he was in the business for many years.
‘For a change of guard’
On the other hand, referring to reports of perceived closeness between the contractor and the Chief Minister, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader Thol Thirumavalavan alleged that the searches did not appear to have been carried out with the intention of unearthing ill-gotten wealth.
“Possibly, they [the BJP] want to effect a change of Chief Minister by widening the gap between Mr. Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, who has been considered a blue-eyed boy of the BJP. Or they may like to have the government dismissed and the Assembly elections held along with Lok Sabha polls, due next year.”
However, Mr. Thirumavalavan clarified that he is not holding any brief for the AIADMK and he is not against any anti-corruption drive.
The AIADMK’s take, however, is different. Terming the searches as “routine,” Vaigaichelvan, deputy propaganda secretary of the party, said that “mere acquaintance” between a Minister and a contractor, which happens naturally, should not be construed as a “deep relationship”.
“As for our ties with the Centre, we will welcome those projects and schemes that are considered beneficial for people of the State, and oppose those which are against our interests. There is no change in our position,” he said.
‘Tarnishing the image’
A senior Minister, who did not wish to be identified, nonetheless viewed the searches as attempts to “tarnish the image” of the State government.
The only voice of dissent that has come from the AIADMK openly is that of M. Thambi Durai, Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker and the party’s propaganda secretary.
Before leaving for New Delhi, Mr. Thambi Durai reiterated his position that allegations of corruption were being made against the State government without evidence and out of “political motive.”
Tamilisai denies charge
Dismissing as baseless the charge of the searches being done with political motive, Tamilisai Soundararajan, State president of the BJP, justified the operations of the I-T department which she said were being carried out after a “thorough home work”. “Preparations would have begun at least a few months ago and political developments have no bearing on the I-T Department’s functioning,” she asserted.
Ms. Soundararajan wondered what “political motive” could be there when no elections were round the corner. She added that her party had been seeking to strengthen and widen its base through “legitimate political work and by highlighting the achievements of our government at the Centre, especially for the welfare of people of Tamil Nadu.”
Mere acquaintance between a Minister and a contractor should not be construed as a deep relationshipVaigaichelvanAIADMK leader
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