"Not all who wear sarees help propagate Tamil"

R. Anbumani — Photo: S. Thanthoni

R. Anbumani — Photo: S. Thanthoni  

Ramya Kannan

CHENNAI: "Is this an issue at all? When there are so many problems in the country."

A sartorial war is on in Tamil Nadu. After Chief Minister Jayalalithaa fired the first salvo by referring to Union Minister Anbumani Ramadoss's dress sense on the floor of the Assembly, it was his turn to respond.

When he walked into the conference hall of the Press Information Bureau here to address a group of journalists on the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), dressed as usual in shirt and trousers, a scribe shot out: "We expected you to turn up in a dhoti!" Laughing it off initially, Dr. Anbumani did clarify his position once the briefing, delivered almost entirely in Tamil, on the NRHM was over.

On April 12, Ms. Jayalalithaa dared PMK MLAs to tell their "Chinna Aiyya" to give up his western style of dressing and wear a dhoti, before preaching on Tamil language and culture.

Though he began by saying, "Is this an issue at all? When there are so many problems in this country, the precious time of the Assembly is being spent on discussing what I wear," the Union Minister went on clarify his position on the issue. The quality of debate in the Assembly which existed in the time of Anna, Kamaraj and `Thalapathi' Vinayagam had deteriorated now, Dr. Anbumani said.

He wondered why anyone else would have to bother about his sartorial sense, which was being used to doubt his devotion to Tamil.

"Not all those who wear dhotis are friends of Tamil, nor all those who wear trousers its enemies. By the same token, not all women who wear sarees are Tamil or help propagate the language," he said.

Only "intention" decided if one was a Tamil enthusiast keen on promoting the language, "not clothes," Dr. Anbumani lashed out this morning.

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