Tamil Nadu’s principal Opposition DMK received a major boost on Friday when former Transport Minister V Senthil Balaji, who shone during J Jayalalithaa’s regime and was close aide of rebel T T V Dhinakaran, joined the party.
Balaji, who left the DMK to join the AIADMK in 2000, returned to the party fold after a gap of 19 years.
A staunch loyalist of V K Sasikala, Balaji stood behind her nephew Dhinakaran and was lost his MLA post after he was disqualified for submitting a letter to then Governor CH Vidyasagar Rao along with 17 other legislators expressing no confidence in Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami.
The exit of Balaji from the Dhinakaran camp is a serious setback for the beleaguered rebel leader whose efforts to topple the government has failed at every stage also this is the first time an AIADMK leader has dumped the party to join the principal Opposition, DMK, after the death of its charismatic leader Jayalalithaa.
Though many leaders have left the AIADMK to join Dhinakaran camp and vice-versa, this is the first time that a Jayalalithaa loyalist has ditched the party to join the rival DMK after the leader’s death.
Balaji, a strongman known for his field work and ability to win elections is actually a prize catch for the DMK which is struggling to make inroads in the Kongu belt of Tamil Nadu, a traditional stronghold of the AIADMK.
It was the maximum number of seats from the belt that propelled the Jayalalithaa government into a second consecutive stint in 2016 and the DMK has not been able to breach the AIADMK fort in the region for the past two decades.
With Balaji in its fold, the DMK will try to make inroads in the Kongu belt with the former minister belonging to the influential Gounder community.
Balaji, now with DMK fold, will face the gigantic task of propelling the party against his former colleagues and formidable AIADMK men – Lok Sabha deputy speaker M Thambidurai and Transport Minister M R Vijayabhaskar.
“Since the AIADMK has become anti-Tamil Nadu by aligning with the Central Government, I have joined the DMK in the presence of Thalapathy (M K Stalin) since I have been attracted by his politics. AIADMK under EPS and OPS is a sinking ship,” Balaji told reporters after Joining DMK.