Addressing a massive crowd on November 7, 2023, Annamalai stated, “Outside this (Ranganathar) temple, once the DMK came to power in 1967, they kept a plaque. What does that plaque say? ‘Those who believe in God are idiots, cheats. Don’t believe in God.’ As if they’ve achieved something big, they’ve installed such a plaque with a flag. We Hindus are people who live peacefully following the path of dharma.”
Annamalai further pledged that, f the BJP comes to power, the first task would be to remove the plaque and flagpole outside the temple, replacing them with statues of Azhwars, Nayanmars, Thiruvalluvar, and freedom fighters. He expressed the intention to honor those who sacrificed their lives during the freedom movement.
During a media interaction at the TN BJP party headquarters on November 9, Annamalai clarified his stance. He expressed that he is not opposed to Periyar (E. V. Ramasamy) having a statue but suggested it should be placed at a neutral public location. Annamalai proposed that statues of leaders who believed in God should be placed outside temples, citing figures such as Muthuramalinga Thevar and Vaidyanatha Iyer.
Regarding Periyar’s critical comments, Annamalai questioned whether such statements should be displayed in front of political party offices. He specifically mentioned quotes like “Communists are those who survive by licking other’s feet,” directed at the Communist party, and “Congress should be abolished,” targeted at the Congress party. Annamalai also questioned if statements such as “DMK men sell their wives for votes and for posts” should be displayed in front of the DMK office.
Emphasising that the BJP is not against Periyar but rather against his statues in front of temples, Annamalai highlighted that while Periyar fought against social evils, the current generation is not ready to accept statements inscribed on the pedestals of his statues, especially those criticising believers in gods.
Annamalai raised the question of whether similar “offensive words” would be allowed in front of mosques or churches in the state. He urged people to consider the sensitivity of such statements in diverse religious contexts.
Throughout his ‘en maan, en makkal’ padayatra, which has covered 103 constituencies so far, Annamalai has received tremendous responses from the public. The yatra has also served as a platform for people to voice concerns about social justice issues in Tamil Nadu. Annamalai cited instances of atrocities against scheduled caste individuals and highlighted petitions related to problems in the farming sector, particularly in central and southern districts of the state.
As the political landscape in Tamil Nadu continues to evolve, Annamalai’s statements have ignited a debate on the intersection of politics, religion, and historical figures, particularly in the context of Periyar and his legacy. The BJP’s position on the placement of statues and the associated plaques has stirred discussions on the appropriate spaces for commemorating leaders with diverse ideologies in a state with a rich cultural and political history.