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Skipped para in speech, ‘ondirya arasu’: Know the details of the Tamil Nadu government Vs Governor RN Ravi controversy

DMK objected when governor RN Ravi skipped some text of the speech prepared by the cabinet, while the governor has objected to use of the term ‘ondirya arasu’ by the state govt to refer to the union govt

The clash between the Tamil Nadu state government and Governor RN Ravi has reached to a flash point. From Tuesday, 10th January 2023, workers of the ruling party DMK are protesting on the streets against the governor. Though the reason behind these protests is said to be the alleged insult of Ambedkar and Periyar by the governor during his address to the state assembly, there are some more dimensions to the dispute between the government of the southern state and the governor.

On Monday, 9th January 2023, governor RN Ravi addressed this year’s first session of the Tamil Nadu state’s legislative assembly. A paragraph of the printed copy of his speech mentioned Ramaswami Periyar, Dr. BR Ambedkar, K Kamaraj, and CN Annadurai. It also mentioned the so-called Dravidian model of government. The governor skipped that paragraph while delivering the speech.

The paragraph he skipped read, “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.” At this time, chief minister MK Stalin immediately raised the issue and condemned the governor. After this, the governor left the session.

It is notable that the first session of the Assembly held every year begins with the Governor’s address. This provision is in force under 176(1) of the Constitution. The state cabinet expected the governor to read out the speech prepared by the cabinet. The Governor skipped some portions while speaking in the House. It was objected to by chief minister Stalin. Stalin moved a resolution that the official address prepared by the state cabinet would be on the table of the House and it was passed. As a result, the speech made by the governor was not recorded in the assembly.

DMK cadres, allies, members of Tamil outfits, and students’ organizations held protests against the governor at several places after this incident. Effigies of RN Ravi were burnt in some places. Posters criticizing the governor were pasted on walls in other places. Chief minister MK Stalin is reported to have asked the party workers to restrain from attacking the governor.

The tussle between the state government and the governor, however, continued even after the governor’s address in the assembly house. Governor RN Ravi, while interacting with a batch of civil services aspirants who have cleared their Civil Services (Main) Exam and were looking forward to their interviews, expressed his disagreement with the Tamil term ‘ondirya arasu‘ used by the state government to denote the union government.

RN Ravi said he was fine with people using the term “Union government” to refer to the Government of India, but he felt the term being translated into Tamil as ‘ondirya arasu‘ was not acceptable. He said that this term referred to a sub-district, sub-divisional level structure in the hierarchy and was used for the Union government perhaps with an intention to belittle and be disrespectful to the Union government.

The governor made these remarks while addressing a query from a UPSC-aspirant candidate on how to answer the question on the conflict between the central government and the state government. It is notable that the Tamil term ondirya arasu means United Government and not the Union Government. Ever since the DMK government has taken over in Tamil Nadu, it is using this Tamil term to address the central government in all communications. This decision by the government has attracted a lot of criticism.

Governor RN Ravi said, “I have used the term “Union government” often and there is no confusion about the fact that India is a Union of the States. The problem in Tamil Nadu is because the term ‘ondirya arasu‘ is used in a politically overloaded manner in a political game of playing down the importance of the Union government.”

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