Facing ire over controversial speeches by A Raja and others, DMK chief MK Stalin tells party cadres to exercise restraint

MK Stalin: Speeches made by DMK members are edited and taken out of context by “toxic forces” to turn it into a controversy.

ByShilpa Nair

Published Sep 29, 2022 | 7:07 PMUpdatedSep 29, 2022 | 7:08 PM

Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin

Breaking his silence over the recent controversial remarks made by senior leaders of the DMK like A Raja and K Ponmudy, party president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin on Monday, 26 September, issued a statement addressed to the party cadres cautioning them to avoid speeches that gave ammunition to “venomous political forces” — an indirect reference to the BJP.

“Some political forces are constantly trying to bring disrepute to the government. We must continue our journey without giving any leeway to those venomous forces that are working directly and indirectly against us,” Stalin said in his statement.

He claimed that speeches made by DMK members were allegedly edited and taken out of context by “toxic forces” to render them controversial.

The DMK chief stated: “Speeches made by functionaries of the party, ministers, MLAs, and MPs at DMK events or public programmes are twisted, tweaked, and distorted. The toxic political forces appear to have made this into regular work… Like Thanthai Periyar used to say, ‘We can fight a thousand people who have dignity but we cannot fight a person who has no dignity’.”

Apart from advising his colleagues to work tirelessly for the people, Stalin also remarked that the DMK would have to continue wrestling with forces that have “no political ethics, honour and honesty”, and are desperately trying to gain a foothold in Tamil Nadu using opportunities like the speeches made by the DMK leaders.

Why the statement?

At a time when Stalin is focused on creating a good image for the DMK government, speeches made by party leaders like A Raja on Hinduism courted massive controversy, giving much-needed ammunition to the Opposition parties, especially the BJP, to take on the DMK and brand it anti-Hindu, a tag that is increasingly making the DMK leadership uncomfortable.

Speaking at an event organised by the Dravidar Kazhagam, the ideological parent body of the DMK, a few days back, MP A Raja quoted Manusmriti and said: “A shudra is the son of the prostitute and he will be a Panchaman (Dalit) till the time he is a Hindu. A person remains untouchable till he is a Hindu. How many of you wish to stay as children of prostitutes or as untouchables?”

The BJP and right-wing groups took serious objection to the remarks and staged protests demanding action against the former Union minister for what they claimed was hate speech.

Coimbatore BJP protest

Picture from the protest held by BJP in Coimbatore against the controversial speech made by DMK MP A Raja. (Twitter/ K Annamalai)

Apart from bandhs being called in places like Ooty, which comes under Raja’s parliamentary constituency, multiple police complaints were also filed against him.

With the protests raging, unknown miscreants vandalised the statue of DMK founder CN Annadurai in the Villupuram district, where the statue was garlanded with chappals, and a picture of Raja was also placed.

In Coimbatore, the BJP’s district head Balaji Uthamaramasamy was arrested by the police for making derogatory remarks against social reformer Periyar and A Raja during a protest held by the Hindu Munnani.

Despite all the hullabaloo, Raja remained defiant and refused to apologise.

In another event on 21 September, Raja reiterated his statements against Sanatana Dharma, but this time he pointed to the Dravidian movement’s initiatives for reservation and social justice for backward classes.

In July, he faced flak for allegedly advocating “secessionism”. Speaking in a meeting held in Namakkal, he said, “Don’t push us to seek an independent Tamil Nadu.”

Not just A Raja

But it’s not just Raja. Minister for Higher Education K Ponmudy also embarrassed the party and government on two different occasions recently.

A short video clip that surfaced on social media a few days ago and was widely shared by AIADMK and BJP supporters showed Ponmudy speaking in a crass manner about the free bus ride scheme for women, a pet programme of the chief minister.

He was heavily criticised for using an inappropriate colloquial term which meant “free”, as the word made the scheme look like it was the DMK government’s charity programme for the women of the state.

In another incident, the minister was heard openly asking a panchayat union chairperson about her caste identity at a public event.

“You belong to a Scheduled Caste community, right?” he asked the Mugaiyur panchayat chairperson during the inauguration of a part-time fair price shop in the Villupuram district.

The minister was trying to emphasise that it was the DMK government and its “Dravidian model of governance” that took steps for women’s empowerment and to bring them into positions of power.

These instances, according to the Opposition parties, exposed the “real social justice” and “Dravidian model of governance” propagated by the DMK.

There are more examples of the recent controversies courted by DMK leaders. These include DMK MLA SR Raja abusing and threatening the management of a private company near Tambaram and DMK MP Senthil Kumar allegedly shouting at officials for including Hindu pooja rituals during the stone-laying ceremony of a government project.

Against the backdrop of these controversial remarks and actions by DMK leaders, many cautioned MK Stalin to rein in his party members to avoid further embarrassment for the government and the leadership.

That’s the reason political commentators believe Stalin’s statement, even as it took on the BJP, served as a serious word of advice to his party members, asking them not to disturb the good governance image that the DMK is trying to project.

Dilemma for DMK

When A Raja was facing ire over his “you are a shudra until you remain a Hindu” remarks, not many DMK leaders backed him in public. However, there is a section of leaders in the DMK that believes a well-read orator like Raja, who is also rooted in the Dravidian ideology, is needed for the party to speak about the DMK and its founding principles to the masses in a manner that’s comprehensible.

But having said that, others in the party are also worried about the consequences of leaders like Raja, who tend to get carried away, delivering freewheeling speeches. Like Stalin warned, even the smallest blip is used politically by the BJP to the hilt.

Moreover, Raja’s speech in the run-up to the Assembly polls in 2021 — he made objectionable remarks about then chief minister and AIADMK leader Edappadi K Palaniswami and his mother — is still fresh in the minds of the DMK leaders as it negatively impacted the party’s electoral prospects in the western part of Tamil Nadu, from where EPS hails. Raja had to publicly apologise for his comments due to massive outrage over the issue.

(With inputs from Umar Sharieef in Chennai.)