Objecting to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-led government’s use of the term ‘Ondriya Arasu’ (Union government) to refer to the Narendra Modi-led government, Puthiya Tamilagam party chief K Krishnasamy wrote to the Governor of Tamil Nadu RN Ravi, to take action against the use of the term. In a letter dated December 25, Krishnasamy also requested the Governor to not give his assent to the Bill seeking exemption from NEET for the state, passed in the Tamil Nadu Assembly in September.
Since coming to power in May 2021, the DMK government in Tamil Nadu began using the term ‘Union government’ (Ondriya Arasu) instead of ‘Centre’ (Mathiya Arasu), in line with its principle of more autonomy for state governments. The move had been opposed by many BJP supporters and right-wingers, who called it a ‘political move’ against the Modi government. However, Chief Minister MK Stalin dismissed such allegations, and said that his government will continue to refer to the Government of India as the ‘Union government’ since that is what the Constitution says.
Objecting to the use of the term ‘Ondriya Arasu’ by CM Stalin and his ministers, Krishnaswamy claimed in his letter that in Tamil Nadu, the Tamil word ‘Ondriya’ is only used to refer to the “block level panchayat.” “The DMK has been extensively used the word “Ondriya Arasu” in recent times to deliberately distort what is said in the Constitution as Union of States and to associate the Indian Union Government with the “Block” level panchayat system, thus it degrading the Central Government to the level of Ondriya Arasu that is “Block” level Governance (sic)”, he claimed.
He also said that the DMK government was unwilling to use the word India or Bharat, referring to the Tamil version of an address by former Governor Banwarilal Purohit on June 21, 2021 where he alleged that the term “India” was deliberately omitted while the term ‘Ondriya Arasu’ was used. He alleged that these actions were “against the integrity of our nation”. Krishnasamy said that his complaint to the former Governor over the issue did not elicit any response.
Noting how in the recent Tamil Nadu Assembly Budget session the term ‘Ondriya Arasu’ was used, Krishnasamy said it should not happen the next time. “The Union Government and Panchayat Union cannot be equated,” he wrote, requesting the Governor not to allow the DMK government to continue using the term as it “reduces their grip on Indian sovereignty and causes hatredness against the Indian Nation among the Tamil people (sic).” He also alleged that the DMK government was trying to “create as much hatred against the Indian nation and to sow the separatists seeds among the Tamil masses to fulfill their long time separatists mission,” and asked the Governor to act against the “Ondriya Arasu menace.”
Constitutions experts have also said using the word Centre would not be accurate, as it is not in the Constitution. Experts say that using the term ‘Centre’ or ‘central government’ is indicative of an unequal relationship, implying that the state governments were subservient to the Union government, while the relationship is more egalitarian in reality with shared power over decision-making.
Puthiya Tamilagam had joined the BJP-AIADMK alliance in Tamil Nadu ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The party, which has been at the forefront of the demand for regrouping and reclassification of the Devendrakula Vellalar community, later left the alliance ahead of the 2021 Assembly elections.