The first question that the raid on the office of the Tamil Nadu chief secretary P Rama Mohana Rao raises is this: Had Jayalalithaa been alive, would this have happened?
The answer is an unequivocal no. In fact, such a raid wouldn’t have happened without massive political aftershocks in any other state because chief secretary is not just a senior IAS officer, but the secretary of the state cabinet. He/she is also the administrative lynchpin of a state, the chief of staff of the government.
Yesterday, when the Income Tax (I-T) officials walked into his office under the protection provided by armed CRPF forces, what they had breached was the notional sovereignty of the state secretariat, lorded over till recently by one of the most powerful politicians of India.
Chief secretary is the appointee of the chief minister — in this case, the appointee of the all powerful Jaya — and raiding his office on suspicions of black money and illegal deals hence taints the chief minister’s office itself. Notwithstanding the merits of the case, it’s a political black-mark that will be recorded in history. This has rarely happened.
Whether there is a political intent to show the new leadership of the state’s ruling party its place or not, this move would certain alarm the AIADMK and the government. Reportedly, the I-T officials have seized Rs 30 lakhs in new currency, five kg of gold and documents that show a lot of undisclosed assets from the raids in premises associated with Rao. The leads for the raids came from massive seizures from Shekhar Reddy, a contractor he was close to. Reddy, who was also seen (in photos published by the media) with chief minister O Panneerselvam, has been arrested by the CBI and his interrogation might lead to more action on Rao and possibly, others.
Usually, such I-T seizures are followed by CBI arrests — mostly for possible money-laundering — and hence Rao’s problems might have just begun. The biting reality is that the chief secretary of Tamil Nadu, who according to the Supreme Court (EP Royappa vs State of Tamil Nadu, 1974) should work in complete rapport and understanding with the chief minister, is a suspect in the eyes of the law of the land. How tenable is that?