Chennai: Even as the Income Tax investigators continued probing the AIADMK (Sasikala) camp amid reports of serious financial irregularities, a senior doctor at the Government General Hospital appears to have opened up a can of worms while reacting to his name figuring in a document allegedly seized during the I-T raid in the premises of health minister Dr C Vijayabaskar on April 7.
The noting in the document showed that on November 1 last year, Dr Balaji was given five lakh rupees “for expenses — HM instructions”. That inspired some media speculation that the doctor, who is the professor and head in the department of minimal access surgery at the Madras Medical College and the GH, had taken the money as his fee for authenticating the thumb impression of the then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in the nomination papers of the AIADMK candidates for Thanjavur, Aravakurichi and Thirupurankundram by-elections as she was unable to sign them being unwell in the Apollo Hospital. Since the thumb impressions were obtained on October 28, the payment of Rs.5 lakh to the doctor was towards his fee for authenticating the CM’s thumb impression, said the media reports.
The Hindu (Tamil) on Monday carried a prominent report quoting Dr Balaji acknowledging receiving Rs.5 lakh from the health minister and clarifying that the money was used for settling the hotel bills of the London specialist Dr Richard Beale. When he came on his fourth trip on October 23, Dr Beale brought his family along and stayed at the Taj whereas the Apollo administration had arranged for his stay at the Rain Tree Hotel. And when the time came for his departure on November 2, Apollo refused to settle his Taj bills and so Dr Balaji turned to minister Vijayabaskar for help. The minister sent Rs.5 lakh through his assistant. “An amount of Rs.4,20,898 was paid to Taj towards Dr Beale’s bills and the remaining money was taken back by the minister’s assistant. It’s wrong to say I received money for authenticating Jayalalithaa’s thumb impression”, Dr Balaji was quoted saying in The Hindu (Tamil).
That interview, obviously, sent shock waves in the AIADMK (Sasikala) as it amounted to confirming the authenticity of the documents that the media had released earlier claiming to be the ones seized in the I-T raids in minister Vijayabaskar’s premises — as part of the huge bulk of evidence pointing to Rs 89 crore being distributed to the voters in RK Nagar constituency. The minister, as well as the party deputy general secretary TTV Dhinakaran and several others in the camp, had stoutly denied any such documents were seized by the I-T sleuths and said ‘just a few inconsequential papers’ were picked up by the ‘vengeful’ raiders.
In a fresh twist in l’affaire Balaji, the doctor on Tuesday came out with a written statement denying he had given any media interview on his name being found in the I-T raid document. Refuting the “baseless and false news”, he said, “I have not given any interview to any newspaper or any media on the above issue. I affirm that I have not received any money either as fee or otherwise, as alleged”.
But The Hindu (Tamil) not only stuck to its guns but also released the audio copy of the doctor’s phone interview to prove its story was absolutely correct. It was not clear why the senior doctor backtracked on that. Attempts by Deccan Chronicle to get in touch with Dr Balaji on phone failed as he did not pick the calls. A mail sent to him seeking clarifications remained unanswered till going to print.