In a significant development, Tamil Nadu minister V Senthil Balaji tendered his resignation on Monday, marking the end of a tumultuous seven-month period following his arrest and imprisonment by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a money laundering and job scam case.
Balaji’s decision to step down gains significance as his prolonged legal battle and repeated bail pleas have yielded no success, prompting questions about his continued role as a minister in the M K Stalin-led Cabinet without any portfolio.
Chief Minister Stalin’s office confirmed the receipt of Balaji’s resignation and stated that it had been forwarded to the Governor for approval.
The resignation comes just days ahead of the Madras High Court’s scheduled review of Balaji’s bail plea. The minister’s arrest is linked to allegations of involvement in a cash-for-jobs scam that allegedly took place during his tenure as the transport minister between 2011 and 2015, under the administration of the late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.
Prior to his arrest, Balaji held significant ministerial positions, overseeing electricity, excise, and prohibition portfolios. Despite his legal entanglements, CM Stalin opted to retain him in the state Cabinet without specific responsibilities, assigning his duties to other senior ministers. However, this move failed to quell the controversy surrounding his continued Cabinet membership while incarcerated.
The case against Balaji revolves around accusations of corruption and illicit financial transactions in the recruitment process within the Metropolitan Transport Corporation.
Recently, Justice N Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court expressed concerns about Balaji’s prolonged detention and his status in the Cabinet, questioning the governance and legal standards reflected in the situation. The judge highlighted the anomaly of a minister retaining his Cabinet position despite being jailed for over 230 days on serious charges, noting that lower-grade employees would have been suspended under similar circumstances.
Sources close to Balaji emphasized that the decision to resign was made independently and was not at the behest of the DMK leadership. They cited health issues, including open-heart surgery, and repeated bail rejections due to his Cabinet position and his brother’s evasion of the ED as factors contributing to the decision.
“The issue of his Cabinet position has become prominent, especially with the High Court also criticising it. Therefore, the decision to resign was made by him on his own,” the source said.