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Late anti-freebie crusader Balaji is ‘Sarkar’ hero

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Chennai, Nov 9 : Nearly a year after the demise of 44-year-old anti-freebie crusader-advocate S. Subramaniam Balaji, Tamil movie "Sarkar" has stirred a controversy over the freebie schemes of the state government.

Protesters outside theatres in Coimbatore, Chennai and Madurai have been
damaging the film’s banners and demanding the removal of certain scenes from A.R. Murugadoss directed political thriller that hit the screens this week.

The ruling AIADMK is angry at the Vijay starrer for criticsing their schemes. Many AIADMK ministers and party cadres expressed their displeasure over certain scenes by damaging banners of the film and cut-outs of the actor.

It is, however, neither Vijay nor Murugadoss, but the late Balaji, who deserves credit for this anti-freebie crusade. The political activist-lawyer died on November 2017, couple of months after meeting with a road accident and suffering head injuries.

Balaji had fought against the freebie schemes of the both the key Tamil Nadu parties — DMK and the AIADMK’s governments — going up to the Supreme Court.

The apex court in 2013, while not banning freebie schemes, had ordered the Election Commission to frame guidelines for political parties to announce freebies in their election manifestoes.

Balaji had strongly felt a golden opportunity was lost to reign in political parties from creating private assets out of public money to be in power.

The top court had observed that promising freebies in the election manifesto doesn’t amount to corrupt practice under Section 123 of the Representation of Peoples Act, while ordering the Election Commission to frame guidelines for political parties.

The court gave the ruling after Balaji filed the case against the distribution of free colour television sets by the DMK to the people as part of its pre-election promise in 2006.

In an attempt to outdo DMK, the AIADMK then under late J. Jayalalithaa promised mixers, grinders, fans and laptops and other freebies during 2011 assembly polls.

Cheap rice, free TV, free power, free stove, cash dole promises by political parties is nothing but "bribery", Balaji had contended.

So, it is neither Vijay nor "Sarkar" director A.R. Murugadoss who could be termed as anti-freebie fighters but the young crusader Balaji.

A government cannot enrich private individuals out of consolidated funds. Giving free land or free TVs or monthly cash doles are precisely that, Balaji had said.

Hailing from a family of lawyers, Balaji’s father N. Sivasankaran is a High Court lawyer, his elder sister Mahalakshmi Ramaswamy is a lawyer, too.