Former IAS officer Santhosh Babu, who held various positions in the Tamil Nadu government, joined actor-politician Kamal Haasan-led Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) in Chennai on Tuesday. The 52-year-old officer, who voluntarily retired from service in August after helming the TN Fibrenet Corporation (TANFINET) between 2018-19 in his capacity as principal secretary, Information Technology department, alleged he faced some pressure during his stint as the top IT official.
TANFINET is a Special Purpose Vehicle for executing the BharatNet project to provide over 12,000 village panchayats in Tamil Nadu with broadband connectivity through an optical fiber network. After Babu was shunted out, allegations vis-a-vis the tender process for the project surfaced early this year.
From the IT department, Babu was transferred to head the TN Handicrafts Development Corporation and retired as its chairman-cum-managing director. Addressing a press conference after joining the party, Babu, answering a volley of questions on why he quit service and on corruption charges related to the tender, denied graft.
"There was no corruption in the (BharatNet) tender process, the bidding has not been completed yet. But, definitely there was some pressure," the former official alleged. However, Babu did not elaborate on from whom he faced pressure and for what purpose.
Stepping in, Haasan said since Babu had all along been a bureaucrat, he would suppress his 'social anger' unlike him and the former official could disclose information related to his service only to an extent. "He may have escaped, but not us. Corruption is affecting us. It is not important which department is scam tainted. Wherever it is, it has to be ended," Haasan said.
The MNM chief alleged that corruption originated from the level of those at the helm of governance and graft should be eliminated as a whole by ushering in change of political leadership. "This has to be changed soon and we have come together towards achieving that." Lauding Babu, a 1995 batch official and a native of Kerala, Haasan said the former bureaucrat earned all round appreciation for his honesty, dedication and efficiency when he held several positions in the government.
"I am very happy to announce that Santhosh Babu has joined hands with us in our endeavour. I appreciate him for having taken a very correct decision. There is no doubt that the arrival of people like him will strengthen our party," Kamal Haasan said, giving him the MNM membership. "He is appointed general secretary, headquarters. There is no doubt that he will leave an in imprint in this work too, like his excellence in government service," Haasan said.
"MNM is the only party that has a congenial atmosphere for the upright people," he claimed. Babu would handle Information Technology, data, research, policy and election manifesto and all headquarters related activites, Haasan said.
Santhosh Babu said MNM's ideal "is uplifting the standard of life of the common man. Only an honest leadership can deliver that and we know that. Under a good leadership, when we think innovatively, big transformational initiatives are possible." He claimed he received a call from the Prime Minister's Office in August 2019 to join them. He, however, declined since he was implementing several key projects aimed at bringing a huge change in the lives of ordinary people.
The former top official said he joined the 'democratic' MNM, with an honest leadership committed for clean politics to bring about change. Babu is a medical doctor and graduated from the government medical college in Tiruvananthapuram.