The biggest ever coordinated income-tax raids covering 187 search spots involving a couple of thousand officers and investigators struck at the heart of an empire of businesses built out of the regime of the late J. Jayalalithaa. One of the politicians — T.T.V Dinakaran — controlling those enterprises as well as the political ambitions of his incarcerated aunt Sasikala, confidante of the former chief minister, has termed the raids as a conspiracy to keep him and his aunt out of politics. If the enterprises, including a distillery and brewery that was supplying almost all the production to the State’s monopoly of the liquor trade, are above board and built on clean money, those who control them should have no fear of the tax and finance authorities. The raids, reportedly planned over several months to cover a set of people with ties to the old regime, would also have to show proper results with the process and the prosecution to follow standing up to judicial scrutiny.
The massive raids are to be seen as a part of an effort to get at the heart of the malaise of corruption that has been known to affect so many state regimes in the country. While such scrutiny is invariably dismissed as political vendetta by those just out of power like Sasikala and her clan or Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family amid so many others, it does stand to reason that a public perception of graft permeating the highest rungs of governance is not unfounded. The systematic commercial exploitation of power not only flows from a politician-businessman nexus. It has been taken further by the close relatives of politicians channeling such money into business enterprises spawned by people in power who threw opportunities in their direction. The uncertainty in state politics since Jayalalithaa’s demise may lend different interpretations to this sequence of events but the fact remains that Tamil Nadu was one of the worst examples of corruption in the seats of power for several decades now.
History may find it difficult to pass judgment on how one of the country’s most charismatic politicians with a deep connect to the people and the poorest of the poor among them could have indulged in this unconscionably cynical aggrandising of wealth. While the same could be said of other leaders who came to power out of the Dravidian movement, it was Jayalalithaa, in cohorts with Sasikala, who took the institutionalisation of corruption to record levels, which the conclusions of the current income-tax raids could well substantiate. The judges in the disproportionate assets case were far from wrong in concluding that the main conspirators were “emboldened by the lucrative yields of such malignant materialism”. The architects of the seminal judgment were dealing with a Rs 66 crore case. The fear is the enterprises the corrupt leaders allowed to be built are worth several thousands of crores now. The timing of the current raids could be subject to interpretation but not their intent and purpose of exposing graft.