Why TN Governor’s ‘Tamilagam’ remarks have sparked row with DMK

DMK MP TR Baalu noted that Governor RN Ravi has been frequently dwelling on topics like Sanatana Dharma, Aryan and Dravidian concepts, and said that he should ideally make such comments from the BJP headquarters.
Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi
Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi
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The ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu has taken strong exception to Governor RN Ravi's remarks terming Dravidian politics as regressive. His suggestion to refer to Tamil Nadu as ‘Tamilagam’ has also not gone down well with the DMK and its allies. The DMK has accused the Governor of making controversial comments with an aim to create confusion in the state. Referring to the Governor's criticism of over 50 years of Dravidian rule in Tamil Nadu, senior DMK leader and Lok Sabha MP TR Baalu said he should be ideally making such comments from Kamalalayam, the state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters and not the Raj Bhavan. 

The DMK and the Governor have had a number of face-offs in the past, including his pending assent to Assembly bills like the one seeking NEET exemption to Tamil Nadu. DMK has been critical of him on these matters too. Here’s what the Governor said on Wednesday, January 4, triggering sharp criticism from DMK.  

What the Governor said

"Unfortunately, in Tamil Nadu there has been regressive politics, that we are Dravidian, and we have nothing to do with this (Bharat),” Governor Ravi reportedly said at an event at the Raj Bhavan on Wednesday. According to a Raj Bhavan release, Governor Ravi said that Tamil Nadu is the soul, an idea and an identity of the nation, and that we should keep it alive to "erase some falsehood and fiction of negative approach prevailing in the state." “There has been regressive politics with the wrong habit of refusing everything that benefits all sections of people including academicians blindly for their own interests, claiming that the state is not integrally part of India," it quoted him as saying.

Governor Ravi also drew a lot of criticism for his comment on the name of the state. He suggested that ‘Tamilagam’ would be a more appropriate name for Tamil Nadu. ‘Nadu’ in Tamil means country, and the Governor seems to suggest that he sees the name ‘Tamil Nadu’ as more indicative of an autonomous region than one that is part of India. He reportedly said that for over 50 years, efforts have been made to reinforce the narrative that Tamil Nadu is not an integral part of India. 

Reacting to Governor’s speech, members and supporters of Dravidian parties registered their protest on social media by trending the hashtag #TamilNadu on Twitter. 

The DMK’s response

Responding to the Governor’s comments, MP Baalu said in a release that the Governor has been frequently dwelling on topics like Sanatana Dharma, Aryan and Dravidian concepts, besides talking about Thirukkural (a set of Tamil couplets touching upon various aspects of life) and colonialism "which are dangerous and absurd.” "His intention has been to take us back to varnashrama (division of society based on caste) days by speaking about sectarian politics. While he was speaking subtle politics so far, he has started to openly talk like a politician," Baalu, DMK Treasurer and its Parliamentary Party Leader, charged.

Governor Ravi was making such comments with the aim of creating "division and confusion," he alleged. Referring to reported remarks of Ravi against the Dravidian rule, Baalu said, "It is condemnable that he is making statements that have to be done from Kamalalayam, from the Raj Bhavan."

Trying to control the "political reins" from a Constitutionally authorised yet "appointed position" amounts to making a mockery of the Constitution, Baalu added. Ravi's take on the Dravidian rule was reflective of the BJP's electoral politics, he alleged. Citing a few statistics, the MP said Tamil Nadu was better positioned in many economic indicators, including its share in GDP and inflation and questioned if Ravi was not aware of the growth trajectory of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

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