Finally when Senthil Balaji met M K Stalin at Anna Arivayalam on Friday to join DMK, what surprised many were two questions – did DMK poach him or was Balaji a yet another desperate career politician in a party in shambles, AIADMK? Both questions stand valid as Balaji was not a mere ex-minister of AIADMK but a leader in his 40s who played a key role in the poll victories of his bosses – whether it was late Jayalalithaa or TTV Dhinakaran after Jayalalithaa’s death.
Balaji was not a no-nonsense leader. Even if he too faced charges and allegations of corruption and amassing huge wealth, what made Balaji a success in his political career was the fact that he was one of the very few faces in AIADMK with a leadership quality other than late Jayalalithaa. He was not only known as a ‘master of political rallies’ by organising thousands of people but also helped AIADMK to win elections many times.
Was DMK poaching Balaji from Dhinakaran camp?
It remains unclear on who made that first move. However, top sources in DMK leadership and strategists working close to Dhinakaran sounded the same – Balaji’s decision to join DMK was beneficial for both.
Balaji, who was supporting Sasikala faction and played a key role in making Dhinakaran public rallies a huge success in the state after Jayalalithaa’s death realised that his future will be bleak if he continues with Dhinakaran’s Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) anymore. “Balaji feels that Dhinakaran has lost his game with his defeat in the 18 MLAs case. If Dhinakaran faction finally joins AIADMK, he will be forced to work with same leaders including his rival and the present AIADMK local transport minister M R Vijayabaskar who controls the party in Karur now. More than anyone, Balaji knows that upcoming elections will be favouring DMK, not Dhinakaran or AIADMK,” said a source close to Balaji, listing out many reasons that made him join DMK.
Meantime, DMK finds Balaji an asset at a time when they haven’t had a single achievement in Karur district since 2006, “not even when DMK was in power,” said a top DMK leader. “We don’t have a single powerful Gounder leader in Karur. We tasted defeats in local body, assembly and Lok Sabha polls since 2006. Balaji was the main threat and here he comes to DMK now. You may wait and see, he will become a prominent DMK leader like as E V Velu and Duraimurugan before the next assembly polls,” said the DMK leader. “He was always a kingmaker of his party in Karur and western belt, and he will revive DMK in Kongu belt now,” the leader said.
While DMK hopes that Balaji will be a crucial asset to get a majority Gounder votes and being confident of exploiting his influence in border districts including Erode and Tirupur in the Lok Sabha polls, Balaji became a priced asset for Jayalalithaa and later Dhinakaran for his ‘skill’ in making political rallies a success. Whether it is Jayalalithaa’s huge rallies ahead of 2016 polls or Dhinakaran’s massive rallies in central Tamil Nadu in the last one year, it was Balaji who is credited for bringing thousands of people. “When political rallies and the huge crowd sets the trend during polls, his skill in organising political rallies will definitely help DMK. He is also a popular leader among people. His transport minister portfolio in the Jayalalithaa cabinet made him a master in organising rallies. He knows the distribution of vehicles such as vans and buses and their owners – mostly schools and colleges – in every region, and he would pick rally dates on school and college holidays. Such skills made him so pricey,” laughed a senior AIADMK leader close to Balaji.