Tamil Nadu Health Minister Dr. C Vijaya Baskar, actor Sarathkumar, MGR Medical University VC Dr Geetalakshmi and AIADMK politician Chitlapakkam Rajendran woke up to officers from the Income Tax department knocking on their doors on Friday morning, with the department conducting raids across several locations in the state.
According to reports, the income tax department is conducting raids on 35 places in Tamil Nadu including 20 places in Chennai and others in Pudukkottai, Namakkal, Trichy and Coimbatore.
Dr. Vijaya Baskar is a native of Pudukkottai. Raids also happened at his official residence at Greenways Road in Chennai.
Unconfirmed reports state that the raids could also have to do with fund malpractices in the upcoming RK Nagar bypolls.
The raids, coming ahead of the crucial RK Nagar contest in which the OPS faction, Sasikala faction and DMK are taking on each other, could become a talking point in denting the image of the Sasikala faction, to which Dr. Vijaya Baskar belongs.
Reacting to the searches that is presently underway at his residence, Vijaya Baskar said, "I am innocent. I-T raids have been taking place from 4am. My kids are not allowed to go to school. This is politically motivated. I-T department is harassing me." Pleading innocence, the Health Minister also said, "They have not found Rs 10,000 from my house. I am cooperating with officials."
Interestingly, the raids also come a day after Sarath Kumar pledged his support for Sasikala faction candidate TTV Dhinakaran. The raid is on at his residence at Kottivakkam in Chennai. Eight IT officials are reportedly at his residence. Campaign vehicles at his residence are also under the scanner.
Meanwhile, Sarath Kumar's family doctor was also called in after the actor-politician complained of giddiness and a headache.
Speaking to reporters outside Health Minister Vijaya Baskar's residence in Chennai, senior AIADMK leader Thalaivai Sundaram said, "They are threatening the Minister and cadres. We are not afraid." He also suggested the raids were being carried out as Vijaya Baskar was an active leader in the election campaign and was taking care of 34 booths in RK Nagar. Refuting allegations that Vijaya Baskar was involved in distributing money to voters in RK Nagar, Sundaram asked, "Where is the evidence for the raid? I-T officials are not returning officers, they are not election commission officials."
AIADMK (Amma) cadres together with Sundaram gathered outside the Minister's official residence and demanded they be let into the house. They shouted slogans against former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam.
Opposition leader and DMK Working President MK Stalin issued a statement demanding that Vijaya Baskar be sacked following I-T raids at his residence.
DMK's Rajya Sabha MP TKS Elangovan also backed raids at the Health Minister's residence saying, "There are charges against the minister that he is amassing wealth. We don't know the reason for the raid. He deserves such a raid."
Dr. Vijaya Baskar is one of the key members of the Sasikala faction and the TN state cabinet. He has always known to be a Sasikala family loyalist. In February, when O Panneerselvam revolted against Sasikala, he had named Dr. Vijaya Baskar as one of the key conspirators and the one who had approached him with requests for Sasikala to become General Secretary of the party.
â€śHe told me that Chinnammaâ€™s brother Dhivaharan had asked him to speak to me. He said that Dhivaharan was unhappy, and was planning to take Chinnamma back to their hometown. When I asked him why, he said Dhivaharan wanted Chinnamma to be the General Secretary of the party,â€ť OPS had said of Dr. Vijaya Baskar.