Former Tamil Nadu Transport Minister and Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) chief TTV Dhinakaran's close aide Senthil Balaji formally joined the DMK on Friday. The suspended MLA from the Aravakkurichi Assembly segment travelled from Karur to Chennai overnight and signed membership papers at the DMK headquarters in the presence of party President MK Stalin and other top functionaries.
Speculation has been rife for over a week about Senthil Balaji's possible defection from the AMMK. According to sources, suspicions arose on December 5 when he failed to join the AMMK in their silent procession to former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's memorial. Sources from both parties had then confirmed to TNM that the former minister was likely to join the DMK. TTV Dhinakaran had even put out a press release claiming to be unconcerned by those who leave the party. TTV said that the those who leave his party are â€˜fakeâ€™, and said that the departure of people who join other parties for their own self interest will not be a source of concern for the AMMK. TTV Dhinakaran in a statement to party cadres and members slammed those who leave the party for â€˜self interestsâ€™, without naming Senthil Balaji.
"I see DMK President MK Stalin as a good leader and someone who has the support of the masses. The current AIADMK government is against the people of Tamil Nadu and is working with the BJP to undermine the state," said Senthil Balaji, in a press meet at Arivalayam. "In all coming elections people will support DMK and make MK Stalin the Chief Minister," he added.
As far as his leaving the AMMK is concerned, the former minister remained very guarded in his views. He merely stated that over the last month, he had not participated in any party activities of the AMMK and believed that MK Stalin had the interests of Tamil people in his heart.
TTV Dhinakaran however pointed out that Senthil Balaji had claimed that he cannot be participate in the party's activities due to personal reasons.
"He told me that the cannot come for some events due to personal issues and I said okay. I however noticed he didn't come for an event held on Amma's (former CM J Jayalalithaa) death anniversary on December 5. When we enquired he said that he got caught up in court over a case," said TTV Dhinakaran, who addressed the media after Senthil Balaji joined the DMK. "We are not going to hold people back forcefully. He is a good person and he was fine as long as he was with us," he added.
The DMK meanwhile maintains that it is not actively seeking to bring in members of other parties into its fold.
"Defections are not new as far as politics is concerned and DMK is not conniving to bring these leaders from other parties to join us. These politicians who are approaching us believe that the DMK has a bright political future and want to be part of the party," says A Saravanan, DMK spokesperson. "We can't restrict people's entry into our party, as per by-laws," he adds.
Who is Senthil Balaji?
The former Minister first shot to popularity when he became a union councillor from Manmangalam panchayat in Karur union in 1996 as independent candidate. He joined the AIADMK in 2000 and retained his post in Karur in the following elections. He grew quickly in the party and won an Assembly seat in 2006 from Karur. In 2011, following yet another victory, he became the Transport Minister but was later dropped from the cabinet in 2014. In 2016, he stood from Aravakurichi and won the MLA seat there.
He went on to support TTV Dhinakaran following the split within the party and was amongst the 18 MLAs whose disqualification was upheld by the Madras High Court.