Chennai: Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MP A. Raja’s comments asking the central government to not “push” the party into reviving calls for a separate Tamil land have sparked a political row in the state.
Speaking at a meeting held for DMK local body representatives in Namakkal Sunday, Raja, a former Union minister, said the Union government didn’t give states autonomy, adding that the Prime Minister and the home minister shouldn’t “force” them into demanding a “thani nadu (separate nation)”.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi says all states are to be seen the same, and Home Minister Amit Shah says if you want unity, learn Hindi. The party’s founding father Periyar, until [his] death, demanded a thani nadu. But we (DMK) kept aside that demand for our democracy and national integrity,” Raja reportedly said in the presence of Chief Minister M.K. Stalin.
“So, I am saying this with the utmost humility. Our CM is travelling in Anna’s [former CM C.N. Annadurai’s] path so far, do not push us into following Periyar’s path. Do not make us revive our demand for a separate state,” he added in his speech in Tamil. “Give us state autonomy.”
Raja’s speech has drawn harsh criticism from both opposition All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) as well as its ally, the BJP. While the AIADMK has called the comments irresponsible, the BJP has said they “propagate separatism”.
On its part, the DMK has distanced itself from the comments.
Asking for a separate state was “not the party’s stand” T.K.S. Elangovan, the DMK spokesperson, told The Print.
“He (A. Raja) might have said it out of anger and frustration since the Union government is taking away the autonomy of the state,” he said, adding that the party believes states should be given more responsibilities.
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Bid to ‘distract people’
State autonomy has been one of the top political agendas of the DMK since the 1960s, with its election manifestos beginning with a reference to federalism. The party gave up the demand for a separate ‘Dravida Nadu’ in 1963, after the 16th amendment to the Constitution sought to put an end to calls for secession.
In 1969, the P.V. Rajamannar committee was set up by the DMK to examine the relationship between the Centre and the state in a federal system.
It recommended an inter-state council for each state for the Union government to consult before enacting new laws.
The DMK reiterated these demands after it entered into an alliance with the Congress (I) in 1971, and, in 1974, presented a white paper in the Tamil Nadu assembly and passed a resolution seeking autonomy.
The DMK’s Elangovan told ThePrint that he didn’t know if his party had acted against Raja for Sunday’s remarks, but that autonomy to the states is the party’s official position that “we’ve been talking about for the past 60 years now”.
“A division of power will help the states to grow. In turn, it will help the country to grow,” he said.
AIADMK spokesperson Kovai Sathyan said that the DMK had been “sowing the seed of divisiveness” in the state for “nearly 1.5 years”, and that Raja “went overboard” with his comments.
“While they were in opposition, they used to call the [Centre] the central government. The moment they came to power, they coined the term Union government,” Sathyan said. “Just by people calling it a Union government, they think that will ensure state autonomy.”
He accused the DMK of using three topics to divert the attention of the public: “State rights, federalism, and state autonomy and language”.
“They will say they are the champion of state rights, [they] will ensure federalism. They will only say it. But when it comes to actions, they are clueless as to what is to be done next.”
Tamil Nadu BJP chief Annamalai took to Twitter to express his views. Karu Nagarajan, the BJP’s general secretary for Tamil Nadu, told ThePrint that such “separatist comments” won’t be tolerated by the BJP.
“This is done to distract people. To make sure they don’t focus on the mistakes made by the DMK, they wanted to speak about issues that steer up sentiments,” he said.
“Even Tamil Nadu’s people will never accept such talk of a separate state,” he said.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)
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