I-T raids signal political chaos engulfing Tamil Nadu won’t end soon

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Chennai: Five days of income tax (I-T) raids on 187 homes and offices of jailed All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader V.K. Sasikala and her family this month have ensured one thing—the political chaos that has engulfed Tamil Nadu isn’t about to end.

A total of 1,800 sleuths were involved in the raids that began on 9 November under ‘Operation Clean Money’, followed by a search at the Poes Garden home of late chief minister J. Jayalalithaa on Friday night.

The moves have sparked allegations that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the centre is attempting to threaten the AIADMK through “selective I-T raids”.

On Friday night, the sidelined AIADMK leader and Sasikala’s nephew T.T.V. Dhinakaran alleged that the Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and his deputy O. Panneerselvam have indulged in “vendetta politics” and said that they would “go to any extent to safeguard their positions.”

“Poes Garden is a place where our beloved Amma (Jayalalithaa) lived, it is like a temple. Palaniswami and Panneerselvam have betrayed Amma’s soul,” he said. Dhinakaran also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley of attempting to hit at their family using the I-T department.

However, Palaniswami blamed it on the Sasikala family. “There is no connection between the I-T raids in Poes Garden and the state government. Raids are conducted by the I-T department which is under the centre,” the chief minister said.

“If nothing comes out from the raids or if the court cases drag on for decades, the corrupt will become emboldened even more. And, the credibility of the political leadership as being tough and honest could be lost,” said N. Sathiya Moorthy, director of the Chennai chapter of think tank Observer Research Foundation.

Apart from reviving the sense of political chaos in Tamil Nadu, these raids have also brought out the differences within the members of the Sasikala family.

Sasikala’s brother V. Dhivakaran on Saturday said that Jayalalithaa, who died last December, had made full use of her friend Sasikala but left her without any safeguards. He added that Jayalalithaa was the prime accused in 46 cases filed against her and Sasikala since 1996 in Chennai.

The Supreme Court in February upheld a trial court order in a disproportionate assets case against Jayalalithaa, Sasikala and two others. Sasikala is currently serving a four-year term in a Bengaluru prison.

However, Dhinakaran claimed that Dhivakaran’s statement was made in anguish. “We are proud of the fact that we helped and protected her (Jayalalithaa). We are grateful to her and whatever she has done. I don’t feel that the case Chinamma (Sasikala) is facing is because of her,” Dhinakaran said.

Differences have also surfaced between Dhinakaran and another of Sasikala’s nephews, Vivek Jayaraman, who controls Jaya TV and Jazz Cinemas. While Dhinakaran called the raids a political vendetta, Jayaraman denied there were any political overtones to the I-T searches.