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The ruling AIADMK has sought to defend Health Minister C. Vijaya Baskar, who was among those targeted by the Central Bureau of Investigation in searches conducted in connection with the gutkha scam.

“In the eyes of the law, all are innocent until pronounced guilty [by trial courts],” Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar told reporters. “You cannot come to a conclusion merely on the basis of an investigation,” he said, adding that the CBI’s action was in response to a direction of the Madras High Court.

More or less on similar lines, the Health Minister, in a statement, said “it is natural for political adversaries” to make allegations against him. “One does not become guilty just because allegations have been levelled against him,” he said.

As a “law-abiding” person, he would extend his cooperation to the CBI in any investigation, he said. “For today’s [Wednesday’s] searches, too, I gave my full cooperation,” he said, adding that he would face any issue legally and politically.

Notwithstanding the ruling party’s defence of the Health Minister, a section of senior leaders is concerned over the possible damage the episode might do to the image of the party and the government. There is a view that any action against the Minister might pave the way for “further divisions” in the party, which has already been hit by the factor of rebel leader T.T.V. Dhinakaran.

Also, the outcome of the Madras High Court case on the disqualification of 18 MLAs belonging to the Dhinakaran camp is awaited.

A senior leader said the latest development did pose one more challenge to the AIADMK which, he hoped, the party would overcome eventually.


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