Will Senthilbalaji’s arrest help BJP?
The arrest comes a day after its long-time ally AIADMK started criticising BJP state leader K Annamalai for his views on former CM Jayalalithaa.
CHENNAI: The arrest of Minister V Senthilbalaji, a trump card of the DMK in Western belt, during the wee hours of Wednesday kicked off a political storm beyond the state. It created a political undercurrent as Chief Ministers of non-BJP ruling states and prominent political leaders of opposition camps strongly condemning the BJP for weaponising the central agencies for its gambit to set a narrative for the impending Lok Sabha polls. The question is what the BJP wants to achievethrough Senthilbalaji’s arrest and whether or not it has achieved it.
Political critics opined that the BJP won the first round, while the rest went to the DMK as the latter gave a different spin to suit their narrative further the deep rooted dislike against the BJP and its Hindutva ideology.
Going beyond the merit of the ‘cash-for-job’ scam case, which originated from J Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK regime, the timing of ED sleuths knocking the doors of residence of Senthilbalaji is interesting.
On May 16, the Supreme Court permitted the agency to go ahead with the probe and set a two month time to submit a status report. The agency showed up during the early hours of June 14 after the Minister failed to respond to summons. Interestingly, it has another significance as well for BJP.
The arrest comes a day after its long-time ally AIADMK started criticising BJP state leader K Annamalai for his views on former CM Jayalalithaa. If the trend continued that might have shown BJP in poor light and driven the alliance into deep trouble in an election year. Apart from hitting one of the powerhouses of DMK, operation Senthilbalaji has saved the BJP from head on collision with AIADMK. As the arrest changed the narrative, AIADMK left behind its tussle with the BJP and started targeting its main rival, DMK.
However, the 18 hour inquiry led to the Minister landing in the government multi-speciality hospital at Omandurar with complaints of chest pain that changed the political discourse. “The BJP effectively changed the narrative overnight and safeguarded its state leader Annamalai, who earned the wrath of the AIADMK cadre, leaders and functionaries. But it died down following the arrest and the following political drama,” said senior journalist and political critic AD Balasubramanian. But, unexpectedly for the BJP, the DMK has managed the events well. It turned out to be like BJP bowled well and DMK batted very well. While DMK’s advocates fought a very good legal battle, DMK’s political strategists drove home the point that it was an action with political motives. “Though there is a corrupt politician image attached to Senthilbalaji, for a long time, this arrest failed to stoke any public or political anger against him, damaging DMK’s electoral prospects. Instead of inflicting political damage to DMK, the arrest has given political momentum to it as opposition parties across the nation rallied behind it,” he added.
Kolahala Srenivaas, political analyst, said the ED arrest of Senthilbalaji is a “rare coincident” as it has to submit a status report to the SC within two months from May 16, but it was given political colour.
Differing from it, senior journalist Thaarasu Shyam said that the BJP aimed to rattle the DMK and it accomplished the same. “It would not yield electoral dividend to the BJP, but it would put the DMK in a defensive position. Till now, they were in a centre forward position in the game of politics,” he said, while another political observer T Sigamani said the BJP is trying to change the narrative from Tamil identity, language and uniqueness of the state ahead of the LS polls.
It is trying to set the political discourse on corruption for the 2024 LS polls and used its agencies to paint opposition leaders as corrupt, but the DMK countered it on the ground of state anatomy, federalism, misuse of independent agencies. “It shows that the BJP action did not fetch the desired result,” he quipped.
Meanwhile, the AIADMK is trying to exploit the scenario to revive bipolar politics and its historical commitment to fight against its arch rival. Senior AIADMK leaders were quick to seize the opportunity to hit out at DMK for safeguarding “accused” in money laundering cases without going deep into the issue. The party has also announced a state-wide protest on June 21 demanding the Chief Minister to drop Senthilbalaji from the Cabinet.