Minister K Ponmudy being brought to the ED office in Chennai. (Photo | P Ravikumar, EPS)
Minister K Ponmudy being brought to the ED office in Chennai. (Photo | P Ravikumar, EPS)

Turmoil in Tamil Nadu as ED opens old cases against ministers

While Balaji’s case looked indefensible, the DMK has put up a brave front to fight out the investigation.

The Enforcement Directorate’s hiatus during the first two years of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) regime in Tamil Nadu has turned out to be the proverbial lull before the storm. The probe agency seems to be running amok in the state now, with its prime focus being ministers in the DMK. First, V Senthil Balaji, DMK leader and Tamil Nadu minister was arrested in an alleged cash-for-jobs scam dating back to 2014 and sent to the Puzhal central prison. The ED then mined a 12-year-old case against K Ponmudy, Tamil Nadu’s higher education minister. It has also moved a lower court with a plea seeking directions to assist the state vigilance wing in a 2006 disproportionate assets case pending against Anitha R Radhakrishnan, the state fisheries minister.

While Balaji’s case looked indefensible, the DMK has put up a brave front to fight out the investigation. He underwent coronary bypass surgery in custody and is currently under observation in jail. In the case of Ponmudy and his son, the ED called them for a couple of rounds of questioning after raids at various properties owned by them allegedly unearthed nearly one crore rupees worth of Indian and foreign currencies. The agency claimed that its probe revolved around the alleged illegal issuance of red sand mining licences by Ponmudy, who was the mines minister (between 2007 and 2011), to his son, relatives, and benami holders. In the case of the fisheries minister, the accused persons (including his family members) and the state vigilance wing had filed separate counter affidavits to the ED’s petition. They questioned the latter’s locus standi to interfere in the ongoing trial. The court has decided to hear them all
on August 2.

The timing of the raid on Ponmudy — on the eve of a crucial meeting of the opposition parties in Bengaluru — has kicked up the debate that it is nothing but New Delhi’s predictable script to intimidate and divide the opposition. Tamil Nadu chief minister M K Stalin retorted that it is a tactic to divert attention. Given the ED’s focus and upcoming general elections, one cannot rule out similar investigations by other probe agencies at the Central government’s disposal. It will surely be a political litmus test for the ruling party in Tamil Nadu.

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