In his political career Baalu went to jail over 20 times for participating in demonstrations and agitations for public cause. He came to political limelight when he was jailed for one year under MISA in 1976 for protesting against Emergency clamped in the country. Baalu was first elected to Parliament as a member of Rajya Sabha in 1986. He was elected to Lok Sabha in 1996, 1998 and 2004 from Chennai South constituency and from Sriperumbudur constituency.in 2009. He was Minister of State in the Ministry Petroleum and Natural Gas, also held additional charge of the then Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources and Cabinet Minister of Environment and Forests from 1999 to December 2003 and as Minister of Shipping and Road Transport and Highways from 2004 to 2009. T.R. Baalu is the Leader of DMK Parliamentary Party and is the only DMK member in the 30 member Joint parliamentary committee that probes the 2G Spectrum scam, where three members from DMK, namely A. Raja, Dayanidhi Maran and Kanimozhi are accused. Baalu is one of the prominent leaders to work towards the implementation of Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project while he was the minister of Shipping.
Baalu was centre of a controversy involving illicit allocation of gas to his family owned King Chemicals and King Hi Power in 2004. In 2010, there were widespread protests by the local farmers against the Baalu's family owned industrial alcohol distillery in Vadaseri, a village in Thanjavur district against the establishment of it would reduce the ground water supply in the region. Internal rivalry in the DMK party emerged between Baalu and S.S. Palanimanickam, the MP from Thanjavur constituency and the district secretary of the DMK in Thanjavur, in 2012, when Baalu initiated a survey for railway lines in Thanjavur district.
Thalikottai Rajuthevar Baalu is an important leader of the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) Party. Baalu was born on 15 June 1941 to Rajuthevar at Thalikottai in Thiruvarur District of Tamil Nadu. He obtained his Diploma in Engineering from Central Polytechnic in Chennai and graduated from New College, Chennai. Baalu's political career started at a very early age of sixteen when he joined the DMK party. He became Secretary of Chennai City District unit of DMK in 1982.
Baalu was first elected to Parliament as a member of Rajya Sabha in 1986. He was elected Lok Sabha in 1996 from Chennai South constituency and became Minister of State in the Ministry Petroleum and Natural Gas. Towards the end of his tenure, he also held additional charge of the then Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources (now called the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy). Baalu was re-elected to Lok Sabha in 1998, 1999 and 2004 from the same constituency and again in 2009 from Sriperumbudur constituency. Baalu served as Cabinet Minister of Environment and Forests from 1999 to December 2003 and as Minister of Shipping and Road Transport and Highways from 2004 to 2009.
T.R. Baalu was the Leader of DMK Parliamentary Party during the 15th Loksabha. He also held the charge as Chairman of the Department Related Standing Committee of Parliament of the Ministry of Railways. In addition, Baalu was a member of several parliamentary committees like Ethics Committee, House Committee and Consultative Committee of Ministry of Finance. He is also a Member of International World Affairs Council (IWAC).
In his political career Baalu went to jail over 20 times for participating in demonstrations and agitations for public cause. He came to political limelight when he was jailed for one year under MISA in 1976 for protesting against Emergency clamped in the country. He protested strongly against the midnight arrest and imprisonment of his party leader Karunanidhi on 30 June 2001.
Baalu is married to Renuka Devi and Porkodi and he has three sons and two daughters. His son, T.R.B.Raj Kumar, is the Chairman of Kings India Chemicals. His second son T.R.B.Rajaa is the Chairman of Kings College of Engineering and in the 2011 Tamil Nadu election, was elected as a Member of Legislative Assembly from the Mannargudi constituency. His third son, Selva Kumar Baalu is the CEO of Twice group. Baalu has visited and been part of visiting delegation to countries like Australia, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Switzerland and Taiwan. His favourite past times include playing cricket.1986–1992 : was elected as a Member, Rajya Sabha1996: Elected to Lok Sabha (Eleventh) for the 1st time1996-1998: Minister of State, Petroleum, Natural Gas and Non-Conventional Energy Sources1998: Elected to Lok Sabha (Twelfth) for the second time1999: Elected to Lok Sabha (Thirteenth) for the third time1999-2003: Cabinet Minister, Environment and Forests2004: Elected to Lok Sabha (Fourteenth) for the fourth time from Chennai South (Lok Sabha constituency)2004-2009: Cabinet minister for Shipping, Road Transport & Highways.2009: Elected to Lok Sabha (Fifteenth) for the fifth time from Sriperumbudur
Baalu is one of the prominent leaders to work towards the implementation of Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project. He was handling it during his tenure as the minister of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways. The project proposes linking the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka by creating a shipping canal through the shallow sea sometimes called Setu Samudram, and through the chain of islands variously known as Ram Sethu or the Adam's Bridge. A few organisations are opposing the dredging of Ramasethu on religious, environmental and economical grounds. Many of these parties and organisations support implementation of this project using one of the five alternative alignments considered earlier without damaging the structure considered sacred by Hindus. During 2006, the Supreme Court Baalu quashed a case requesting a ban on the project and issues notices to Baalu and the environment ministry. With 22 km of dredging remaining, the project is held from March 2010 by a Supreme Court order seeking the Central Government to clarify the status of the bridge as a national monument. He was recruited as a minister in 2009 during the second term on UPA coalition government as it was reported that the Prime Minister was unhappy with Baalu over the corruption charges in Sethusamudram project. But he continued as the head of the DMK parliamentary party and also part of various central committees.
DMK pulled out of the ruling UPA on 20 March 2013 following widespread protests in Tamil Nadu against the central government for not taking up the concerns of Tamils in Sri Lanka in the UN resolution against the alleged human rights violation against Tamils by Sri Lankan government. There was a brief controversy when Azhagiri did not accompany the contigency led by Baalu, the head of MPs from the DMK party, to tender resignation in the Prime minister's office and to hand over the letter of withdrawal to the President on 20 March 2013. It was claimed as a mark of protest against his father Karunanidhi's decision to pull out from the central ministry. Some sources claim he delayed his resignation as he was not kept in the loop while taking the decision and snubbed Baalu.
The fifth Joint parliamentary committee was constituted in February 2011 to probe 2G scam. It is headed by P. C. Chacko and had 30 members, 15 each from the ruling UPA and opposition members belonging to BJP, JD (U), CPI, CPM, Trinamool Congress, BJD, DMK and the AIADMK in the 30-member panel accused P.C. Chacko of being "partisan" and demanded his removal (They submitted a memorandum to the Lok Sabha Speaker expressing their "no-confidence".) Three of the DMK MPs, namely, A. Raja, the IT and Telecommunication minister, Kanimozhi, the daughter of Karunanidhi and Rajya Sabha MP and Dayanidhi Maran, the nephew and IT and Telecommunication minister preceding A. Raja, are the three accused in the scam. Baalu is the only member from the DMK in the committee and he, along with other opposition members, snubbed the report as "half boiled" as the draft report gave a clean chit to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram, while implicating the DMK minisiter A. Raja.
Baalu was centre of a controversy involving illicit allocation of gas to his family owned King Chemicals and King Hi Power in 2004. He confessed to it in Rajya Sabha on 24 April 2008 – "The companies had entered into an agreement with the public sector Gas Authority of India Limited for allocation of 10,000 cubic metre gas. However, within days of my resignation from the NDA government in 2003, the gas allocation was cancelled. The BJP-led NDA wanted to take revenge after I quit the ministry and the alliance on orders from my leader". He also accepted that he did so to save the company from loss and also to protect the interest of 40,000 shareholders.
There were widespread protests by the local farmers against the Baalu's family owned industrial alcohol distillery in Vadaseri, a village in Thanjavur district. The protesters argued that the establishment of it would reduce the ground water supply in the region. On 8 April, 3,000 protesters from the village wanted to have a public hearing and environment assessment being arranged. On 9 April, a public hearing was arranged in the company with the presence of district administration, police and Tamil Nadu pollution control board. Most of the villages protested to have it in public, which resulted in clashes between the supporters of Baalu and farmers, resulting in two farmers getting injured and 25 people remanded to police custody. In August 2010, the Madras High Court passed a restraint order pending the Environment Ministry clearance against the distillery.
Internal rivalry in the DMK party emerged between Baalu and S.S. Palanimanickam, the MP from Thanjavur constituency and the district secretary of the DMK in Thanjavur. During October 2012, Palanimackam came out open in the media to criticise his senior colleague for showing undue interest in Thanjavur, while he could have done it was his Sriperumbudur constituency. He accused Baalu for bringing all the railways schemes to Thanjavur to get the seat in Thanjavur for 2014 general elections. Referring to the internal conflict, the party leader Karunanidhi came out in the open stating "When I go to sleep, such factional feuds engulf me and make me sleepless". Baalu being the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways, initiated the survey for the 47 km (29 mi) Thanjavur-Pattukottai railway line and the 42 km (26 mi) Mannargudi-Pattukottai rail project, which is believed to have created the conflict.