O Panneerselvam Dodges Corruption Charge As Report Triggers New Row

A report by the magazine The Week has claimed that O Panneerselvam, popularly called OPS, was on the payroll of sand mining baron Sekhar Reddy.

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Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam said he was not aware of The Week report.


Chennai:  Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK party is heading into yet another political crisis. Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on Friday had to fend off serious corruption charges that inconveniently come just ahead of the closely-watched RK Nagar by-election, lending ammunition to the opposition. A report by the magazine The Week has claimed that Mr Panneerselvam, popularly called OPS, was on the payroll of sand mining baron Sekhar Reddy.

The DMK has sought a CBI probe. "Only a CBI probe can bring the truth," the party's working president MK Stalin said, demanding that the ministers quit their posts till they get a clean chit.

Another opposition party, Pattali Makkal Katchi, or PMK, also demanded the resignation of the ministers to facilitate a probe, according to news agency Press Trust of India.

Mr Reddy, who is alleged to have made the payments, was arrested in March this year by the Income Tax department. Investigators had allegedly seized Rs 142 crore in unaccounted wealth including Rs 34 crore in 2,000-rupee notes and 127 kg of gold from his properties.

But one of the senior-most politicians at the heart of the controversy Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam said he was not aware of The Week report.

Senior Minister D Jayakumar too declined to comment, because he was asked the question at Raj Bhawan. "This is the Governor's residence and I should not speak politics," he said.

According to the magazine, a diary - now reportedly in the custody of the Income Tax department - was seized during the raids. This diary suggests almost Rs 3.79 crore was allegedly paid to OPS. The entries mention him as "Periyavar" which is inferred to mean senior.

Another Rs 2.49 crore was allegedly paid to OPS' secretary Ramesh referred to as "OPS Ramesh" and another family member referred to as Advo Kasi. Payments allegedly to electricity minister Thangamani, Health and Revenue ministers also reportedly find mention.

Based on reports that up to Rs 400 crore was paid to Tamil Nadu's cabinet ministers, the Income Tax department had earlier this year sought permission for a probe. Chief Minister E Palaniswami has not allowed it yet.


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