A day after the Tamil Nadu Assembly was rocked by unprecedented scenes of a Governor walking out before the national anthem was sung, posters came up across Chennai saying “GetOutRavi”.
DMK sources said Tuesday that Chief Minister M K Stalin tried his best to avoid the confrontation in the House but was driven into a corner by Governor R N Ravi.
Top sources in the party said the draft for Ravi’s speech starting the new Session of the Assembly was readied on January 6 and approved the next day.
“The DMK knew there could be problems with Governor Ravi, and there were even rumours that he might leave out words such as ‘Dravidian model’. But we didn’t think he would go so far as to leave out names of Tamil social reformer Periyar and B R Ambedkar. That was unacceptable,” said a DMK minister, who was in the Assembly, adding that Stalin was furious when he realised this.
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An official at the Assembly said the CM had both the Tamil and English versions of the Governor’s speech, which, under the Rules of the House, is meant to be a review of the activities and achievements of the state government, an outline of its policy as well as a brief account of government business for the Session.
“Right from the start, there were things the Governor left out, like the phrase ‘Dravidian model’. Those who noticed this, initially thought it was a mistake. But when it turned out that he was leaving out complete paragraphs, the CM sent a note to find out what all had been omitted. He talked briefly with Durai Murugan (Minister for Water Resources and a veteran DMK leader), who was sitting next to him. The CM was upset when he found out that the names of social reformer Periyar, Ambedkar, Congress leader and former CM K Kamaraj, DMK founder C N Annadurai, and Stalin’s father M Karunanidhi were left out,” the official said.
Sources said the CM, however, told his colleagues to let the Governor complete his speech, and meanwhile instructed officials to be ready with a draft resolution (on the original speech), to be put out as soon as Ravi had finished. “And it was ready in about 20 minutes,” the official said.
A top DMK source said Stalin has consistently tried to avoid a conflict with the Raj Bhavan. “In the past, state governors were not given the Guard of Honor. After Ravi took over, the Raj Bhavan started demanding it. Ravi got the same honour on Monday too. The DMK government made it clear many times that it did not want to escalate matters. But the Governor’s immature handling of a prepared speech and the unprecedented response of a walkout was unfortunate. He should have kept his head, at least, given his position,” the source said.
While there was no word from the Raj Bhavan, BJP MLA Vanathi Srinivasan defended Ravi, and called the resolution passed by the DMK government after his speech a “personal attack” on the Governor. BJP state chief K Annamalai also criticised the DMK and said the CM moved a resolution when Ravi didn’t even have a mic to respond.
However, posturing apart, there is unease within the BJP over the row, which might prove hard to live down for a party that has always fought the tag of “outsider” in the state.
“How does Ravi fighting over certain words help? No one gets anything out of it except that there is controversy and news. If the idea is to stir up a crisis – like in West Bengal (between CM Mamata Banerjee and earlier Governor Jagdeep Dhankar) – it is the BJP that will be at the receiving end. Let the Governor be proactive, target corruption, scrutinise the Stalin family’s grey businesses, stop irregularities and shady appointments, and tighten the rules. Why are we wasting time debating over ‘Tamil Nadu’ vs ‘Tamizhagam’?” a senior BJP leader said.
The leader also said the party should not take such an extreme position that a collaboration with the DMK government became impossible. “This is not good for a national party like ours… Why should we snap all communication? What if a scenario emerges in which we need the DMK for 30 seats after the 2024 polls?”