INTERVIEW | R. Mahendran Tamil Nadu

CM failed to reprimand Bhalaji: MNM vice-president

MNM vice-president says DMK had its political reasons for remaining silent

Makkal Needhi Maiam founder Kamal Haasan’s recent description of Nathuram Godse, Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, as free India’s first extremist, who was a Hindu, triggered a controversy nationwide. Tamil Nadu Dairy Development Minister K.T. Rajenthra Bhalaji went to the extent of saying that the actor-politician’s tongue should be cut off. In a telephonic interview with The Hindu, MNM vice-president R. Mahendran questions the Chief Minister’s failure to reprimand his Cabinet colleague and the DMK’s silence on the issue. Excerpts:

Probably for the first time in Tamil Nadu, a political party leader – Kamal Haasan – was not allowed to campaign (in Sulur) citing potential law and order issue. Did your leader not realise the consequence of his remarks on Godse’s religion?

This is not a matter of (him not realising the) consequence. It was only a simple statement of a historical fact. The same was mentioned on the last day of the campaign for the Parliamentary elections i.e. April 16 in Chennai near Marina. So, refusing permission to campaign, we feel is a biased decision. The police report that his visit would create a law and order problem was not based on facts or ground reality.

But, was it appropriate for Mr. Haasan to have made such observations when the Model Code of Conduct was in place?

If you were to say so, even the Prime Minister had set a precedent when he has made some statements in Wardha in April on similar terms about Hindu and terrorism. The Prime Minister was trying to defend one religion, but our leader’s message from that speech was that we have to live like Indians and must not allow extremism to rear its head. But the BJP and its allies wanted to make it look like a statement against a religion.

Mr. Haasan’s statement was seen as minority appeasement…

I will quote from what our leader said in Tirupparankundram. If it was about votes, then a very simple logic would say why he would appease the minorities when you are going to win [the votes of] majority. If it is about the simple arithmetic of vote share, would he have made such a statement?

Your view on Minister K.T. Rajenthra Bhalaji’s remark to cut off Mr. Haasan’s tongue…

The remarks sounded as if it was made by someone with no responsibility and someone involved in a street fight. If there is a rule of law in our State, for sure action should be taken against him. More importantly, the Chief Minister did not even utter a word of reprimand. We have sought Mr. Bhalaji’s resignation and have given a complaint, which we will pursue.

The DMK has remained silent on the controversy…

It is quite surprising. Even though we are political opponents, we are thankful to Mr. Vaiko [MDMK leader] and Mr. Thirumavalavan [VCK chief], who defended us. I suppose the DMK has its own political reasons for remaining silent.

Is Mr. Haasan trying to forge a third front by making such statements?

Absolutely not. His statement was a call for national integration and harmony. His speech was edited with mala fide intent to make people think he is against a religion. We clarified our stand and people understood us.

In this situation, some parties came out openly in support of us because they are for what is right, legally or factually. It has nothing to do with any political front.

Do you think Mr. Haasan’s statements would have any impact on the electoral outcome?

The BJP and its allies’ vicious attacks would have exposed them in the eyes of the public.

That way, I think, in the long run, it is going to be negative for them and positive for us.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 9:51:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/cm-failed-to-reprimand-bhalaji/article27180485.ece

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