Amidst a tense atmosphere in Parliament, BJP MPs strongly criticised DMK Sriperumbudur MP T R Baalu for his disparaging remarks against Minister of State L Murugan, demanding an apology from him. As the Lok Sabha elections draw closer, the ongoing session, which commenced for the presentation of the finance judgment on January 31, has been marked by heightened political tension. Prime Minister Modi took aim at the opposition, expressing confidence in BJP’s prospects with expectations of winning over 400 seats.
Furthermore, on February 6, DMK MPs raised concerns regarding the Union Government’s assistance to Tamil Nadu for post-flood reconstruction efforts during the Question Hour session in Parliament.
During the Question Hour in Parliament, DMK MPs A Raja and A Ganeshmurthy queried about the deployment of a Central team to evaluate the damages caused by heavy rainfall and flooding in Chennai, its suburbs, and South Tamil Nadu in December. Subsequently, DMK MP TR Baalu raised a supplementary question, leading Minister of State L Murugan to dismiss it as ‘irrelevant.’ Baalu expressed his dissatisfaction, criticising Murugan’s competence as both a Member of Parliament and a minister. He urged Murugan to refrain from interference and accused him of lacking knowledge and discipline. Baalu’s remarks escalated the tension, with him asserting that Murugan was unfit for his parliamentary and ministerial roles.
Following comments against Murugan, a member of the Scheduled Caste community, BJP MPs strongly reacted, with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi challenging Baalu’s characterisation of Murugan as ‘unfit’. “How can you call him unfit? You cannot call a minister and a member unfit… It is unfair that you are a senior member, how can you call him unfit?”
The atmosphere in the house became heated and tense. Members shouted and chanted slogans as the BJP accused the DMK government and the Congress of being unfit. They demanded an apology from Baalu, who refused. Speaker Om Birla subsequently expunged the term ‘unfit’ from the official records, leading to a walkout by DMK, Congress, and their allies. Baalu later told media as he exited Parliament that his characterisation of Union Minister L Murugan as ‘unfit’ was not deemed unparliamentary.
#WATCH | MoS and BJP MP L Murugan says, "DMK is unable to tolerate that a minister from a downtrodden community is a minister. This is why he used a derogatory and unparliamentary word to insult my community and me." pic.twitter.com/eNnkPSw9Gc
— ANI (@ANI) February 6, 2024
Later, Murugan informed reporters, “The DMK cannot bear the fact that a Minister from an underprivileged community holds office. That’s why derogatory and unparliamentary language was used to insult both my community and me,” the Minister asserted.
திமுக-வின் போலி திராவிட மாடல் சமூகநீதி பிம்பம் இன்று மக்களவையில் வெளிப்பட்டுள்ளது.
சமூகத்தின் பிற்படுத்தப்பட்ட , ஒடுக்கப்பட்ட, பட்டியலின மக்களின் வாக்குகளுக்காக மட்டுமே அரசியல் செய்பவர்கள் திமுக-வைச் சேர்ந்த இந்த போலி திராவிட மாடல் சமூகநீதிக்காரர்கள்.
— Dr.L.Murugan (@Murugan_MoS) February 6, 2024
Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai issued an official statement on his X handle, denouncing TR Baalu’s actions. “Thiru TR Balu is a disgrace to politics, and this isn’t the first time he has made disgraceful remarks about a member of the Scheduled Caste Community,” he stated. “I strongly condemn these remarks on Honorable MoS Thiru @Murugan_MoS avl in the Temple of Democracy. Our Honorable PM Thiru @narendramodi is a true champion of social justice. It has made a member of the Arundhathiyar community a Minister, which DMK could never do despite being in the Central govt for decades.” Annamalai continued, highlighting the unwavering dedication of MoS Thiru @Murugan_MoS AVL to serving the people and his commitment to making a positive difference as a Minister of State. “Only an arrogant man like Thiru TR Baalu can term a member of Parliament and a Minister from the SC community as ‘Unfit’,” he added, concluding that Baalu must issue an unconditional apology to the people of the SC community for referring to their representative as “Unfit.”
Thiru TR Balu is a disgrace to politics & this is not the first time he has made disgraceful remarks about a member of the Scheduled Caste Community. I strongly condemn these remarks on Hon MoS Thiru @Murugan_MoS avl in the Temple of Democracy.
— K.Annamalai (@annamalai_k) February 6, 2024
Netizens unleashed a wave of criticism, condemning the DMK for their historical instances of disrespect towards the scheduled caste community. Here are some examples:
— Sanghi Prince🚩 (@SanghiPrince) February 6, 2024
This isn't the first time DMK Party insults our SC/ST brothers.
— Karthi 🇮🇳 (@SaffronSurge3) February 6, 2024
On May 13, 2020, Dayanidhi Maran and Baalu met Chief Secretary K Shanmugam to present representations received from the public. They later expressed to the media that they felt treated as oppressed-class citizens. Dayanidhi Maran questioned, “Are we considered third-rate citizens? Or oppressed?” insinuating that they were perceived as SC/ST individuals.
In a separate incident, the principal sessions judge in Egmore remanded DMK organizing secretary and Rajya Sabha member R S Bharathi in judicial custody until June 5, shortly after his arrest for remarks made in May 2020. Bharathi had stated that the Dalit community had been appointed to higher judicial positions during the tenure of former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and that their elevation was a result of the Dravidian movement’s efforts.
Critics argue that despite the DMK’s claims to champion the welfare and upliftment of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and advocate for social justice, it has shown little regard for their welfare. They highlight instances where Dalits were not appointed as district presidents or secretaries within the party, and where DMK ministers treated SC/ST individuals unequally by providing them with plastic chairs placed meters away from costly furniture. Additionally, at public events, Dalits were often seated below the platform. Former Minister K Ponmudi once even questioned an official’s caste publicly. Dalit elected officials were reportedly denied chairs in local bodies and permission to hoist national flags on Independence Day and Republic Day, indicating a lingering feudal mindset within the party.