An able organiser who party-hopped four times and rose up the ranks quickly

Initially drawn to numerology and astrology, Senthil Kumar changed his name to Senthil Balaji.
FILE: TN electricity minister V Senthil Balaji. (Photo | PTI)
FILE: TN electricity minister V Senthil Balaji. (Photo | PTI)

CHENNAI: V Senthil Balaji’s arrest in the wee hours of Wednesday has put the spotlight back on the electricity minister who has been dogged by controversy over the years. Originally named Senthil Kumar, he was born into a farmer’s family in Rameshwarapatti near Karur in 1975. While at Government Arts College, Karur, in 1994, he became an active member of the Vaiko-led MDMK, a splinter group of DMK.

Initially drawn to numerology and astrology, Senthil Kumar changed his name to Senthil Balaji. Dissatisfied with the MDMK district members, he switched his allegiance to the AIADMK in 2001 when the party was in power. Soon after joining the AIADMK, he secured a district-level position in the party’s student wing.

Senthil Balaji presents a bouquet to
MK Stalin after joining DMK at
Anna Arivalayam in Chennai | file picture

Impressed by his dedication and involvement in politics, AIADMK fielded him as a candidate for the Karur assembly constituency in 2006, and he defeated the influential politician Vasuki Murugesan, who was the Karur DMK district secretary.

His performance as a first-time MLA impressed the party leadership, and he was again given the ticket to contest in the Karur assembly constituency in the 2011 general elections. He emerged victorious in that election too.

Upon his second electoral triumph, Senthil Balaji was appointed as the Minister of Transport in the J Jayalalithaa cabinet in 2011. During this period, he also served as the district secretary of the AIADMK, organising remarkable events within the district. However, due to serious allegations against him, he was removed from the cabinet and relieved of his party position in July 2015.

Despite these setbacks, Senthil Balaji managed to get the assembly ticket for the Aravakuruchi assembly constituency for the 2016 assembly general election and won for the third consecutive time.
Subsequently, following the demise of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and the split within the AIADMK, he aligned himself with TTV Dhinakaran’s faction. Alongside 17 other MLAs, he met the Governor to seek the dismissal of the then-chief minister, Edappadi K Palaniswami. Consequently, he faced disqualification by the speaker of the assembly.

Realising the limited political prospects within the TTV Dhinakaran-led Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK), Senthil Balaji decided to switch his loyalty to the DMK in December 2018. He contested and won the by-election from the Aravakuruchi assembly constituency on a DMK ticket in 2019. 
Additionally, he played a pivotal role in securing numerous seats for the DMK in the rural local body elections held in 2020. Once again, he was nominated by DMK for the Karur assembly constituency in the 2021 general elections, and he emerged victorious.

Balaji continued to prove himself as an able organiser. A former DMK district secretary, told TNIE, “Senthil Balaji is always known for organising grant events, be it in AIADMK or AMMK or DMK. He was the first person who conducted DMK president MK Stalin’s meeting at 530 places in the district through a video-conference facility. He joined DMK along with 50,000 members and conducted a government function in the Karur district and other Kongu regions for providing government welfare measures to one lakh people in a single function.”

Cash-for-jobs scam
Balaji has continuously been haunted by the cash-for-jobs scam that dates back to 2014. The allegation is that aides of Balaji took cash from the aspirants for jobs in the Metropolitan Transport Corporation. While jobs were allegedly given to those who paid up, some were kept pending in view of the impending elections with the promise of accommodating them thereafter. Baskar, who was working as a Junior Assistant at the Saidapet Depot and one of the co-accused in the scam died under mysterious circumstances. In 2018, four complaints were filed against Balaji and others, and an FIR was filed. Later, ED took cognisance of the case and registered four cases in connection with the scam, and named Balaji as an accused 

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