Analysis
The family’s operations in the town and nearby villages had a virtual wall of protection against it, and it has been breached.

It isn’t something the small yet influential town in Tiruvarur district, near Thanjavur, has seen before. On Thursday morning, as the offices of Jaya TV, newspaper Namadhu MGR and Jazz Cinemas – all establishments owned and controlled by the Sasikala family – were raided by Income Tax sleuths in Chennai, the town of Mannargudi also saw tax officials swarming into the residences of some of the most influential men and women, all connected to the Sasikala family.

Mannargudi is the headquarters of Sasikala Family Inc. While the entire family has roots in Mannargudi, it’s her youngest brother Dhivaharan who was the strongman from here. (Read our story from Dec 2016 - The Mannargudi man from Sasikala family consolidating AIADMK and gaining influence)

Dhivaharan. File Image

According to Jaya TV, the following places were raided in Mannargudi and Thanjavur: Dhivaharan’s residence at Sundarakottai in the outskirts of Mannargudi; his college Sengamalathayaar Women’s College which is right opposite his home; Dhivaharan assistant Vinayagam’s residence in Mannargudi; residences of Dhivaharan’s aides Sujay and Selvam in Mannargudi; lawyer Velukarthikeyan’s residence in Thanjavur; residence of Dhivarahan’s Vaduvur Agri Rajendran residence in Mannargudi; Amma Peravai Dy Secy Rajeshwaran’ residence; and Sasikala’s brothers Sundaravadanam’s and late TV Mahadevan’s residences in Thanjavur.

The News Minute has been informed by sources in Mannargudi that the residences of another aide of Dhivaharan, Rasipullai, and of S Kamaraj, the AIADMK MLA aspirant who lost to DMK in 2016 and is known to be close to the family, were also raided.

Sasikala’s husband M Natarajan’s house in Thanjavur is also being raided, according to reports.

Several of Dhivaharan’s associates live in the nearby village of Keelathirupalakudi, and they have also been raided.

Dhivaharan's son Jeyanand with Sasikala. File Image. 

How did the Income Tax department, an agency controlled by the Union government, get such specific details of Dhivaharan’s enterprise and close aides?

While it is not impossible for the I-T department to have done their own home work, local politicians think that there has been considerable help from the Tamil Nadu government.

“As the information flows in on the places which are being raided, I can only think of one agency which will have this information handy – it’s the TN police’s intelligence department. Given the animosity between the present government and the Sasikala family, I would not be surprised if the TN police gave them specific inputs,” says a local politician in Mannargudi.

And that's showing on the ground too. 

For long, the town of Mannargudi and the Sasikala family’s operations were closely guarded and there was a virtual wall of protection around them. The last such ‘raids’ on the financial operations of the family were perhaps in 1996, when Jayalalithaa’s financial irregularities were tumbling out. Even a year ago, as Jayalalithaa was battling for her life in the hospital, it would have been unthinkable for any government to have launched such a ‘clean up’ operation against the family. The political messaging, if any, is clear – no more kids’ gloves in dealing with the most influential family in Tamil Nadu.