Tamil Nadu vs Tamizhagam — TN Governor Kicks Up Storm by Deviating from Govt-Approved Text in His Customary Assembly Address

The first Assembly session of the year in Tamil Nadu got off to a rocky start after the governor decided to pick and choose words, deviating from the approved text. The portions he skipped included the term “Dravidian Model” of governance and references to stalwarts held in great esteem in the state, including E.V. Ramaswamy (Periyar), Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and former chief ministers, Kamraj, C. Annadurai and M. Karunanidhi.

It was also reported that paragraph number 65 was skipped by governor R.N. Ravi that reads as, “Following the principles and ideals of stalwarts like Thanthai Periyar, Annal Ambedkar, Perunthalaivar Kamarajar, Perarignar Anna and Muthamizh Arignar Kalaignar, this government has been delivering the much acclaimed Dravidian Model of governance to its people.”

However, elsewhere in his speech though, the governor mentioned “Kalaignar” referring to the former chief minister M. Karunanidhi. He had also included, of his volition, from outside the text provided by the state government, remarks on Swami Vivekananda and the Union government’s actions on issues concerning Tamil Nadu’s fishermen. However, governors are expected to stick to the text prepared by the governments of the day.

The governor also did not read a portion of the text which read, “Tamil Nadu continues to be a haven of peace and is attracting numerous foreign investments and is becoming a forerunner in all sectors.”

Soon after this, objecting to the omissions and additions, Speaker M. Appavu read out the Tamil translation of the governor’s address which had been tabled already. Chief minister M.K. Stalin moved a resolution to retain only the printed and approved speech copy on the Assembly records. Portions “inserted” or “omitted” by the governor as he read, the chief minister said should not be part of the records.

At this stage, the governor walked out of the Assembly, triggering an uproar.

The industries minister Thangam Thenarasu said, “And the governor leaving the House even before the National Anthem was played is an insult to the nation. If he had wanted, he could have suggested a few corrections. Moreover, the governor approved the speech on January 7,” he said. The minister released a copy of the letter signed by Ravi to the media.

The tense proceedings have a context in remarks made by Ravi last week, when he called for the name of the state to be changed to Tamizhagam, instead of Tamil Nadu. This had enraged not only the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and its Congress and Communist allies but Opposition All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leaders have also not backed the governor on this one.

Chief minister M.K. Stalin on Friday, January 6, said it was the DMK that named the land of Tamils as Tamil Nadu, and described language as the “life of a race”. Stalin’s remarks came a day after Ravi said ‘Thamizhagam’ would be a more appropriate name for the state than ‘Tamil Nadu’.

At a gathering at the Raj Bhavan on Wednesday, January 4, governor Ravi had said, “Unfortunately, in Tamil Nadu, there has been regressive politics, that we are Dravidian, and we have nothing to do with this (Bharat).”

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 one 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 cited him as saying.

The DMK hit right back, with DMK treasurer and its parliamentary party leader, T.R. Baalu saying in a statement that the governor has been frequently speaking on contentious subjects 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,”

The name ‘Tamil Nadu’ has significance and also emotional cache, being linked with the struggle for Tamil identity and language, for decades now. While there are no objections per se to Tamizhagam, to change the name and scotch Tamil Nadu was deemed unacceptable and tensions spilled over once the governor refused to stick to the text, as is the convention. What he chose to delete and add also inflamed an already fraught situation.

Baalu said that “his (Ravi’s) 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.” All being done, Baalu alleged, to sow “division and confusion.”

The Monday morning had got off to a stormy start as Ravi’s comments on changing the name of the state from Tamil Nadu and other statements being seen as a slight to Tamil identity, had enraged enough parties to stage a protest and shout slogans as he began speaking. MLAs from DMK alliance parties — Congress and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) —raised slogans against the governor.

The incident in Assembly drew sharp reactions from across the political spectrum. D. Raja of the Communist Party of India said “office of governor is only proving to be a burden on our federal polity”. Taking to Twitter, he wrote:

Meanwhile, the BJP Tamil Nadu unit president K. Annamalai accused DMK and its allies of acting like “fringe elements” for “petty political gains”. Taking to Twitter, he wrote:

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