In Tamil Nadu, it is not just a constitutional stalemate over Bills which is straining the relationship between Governor RN Ravi and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government, as the DMK is also opposed to Ravi’s “rhetoric.”
According to DMK leaders 20 Bills passed by the state Legislative Assembly are pending with Ravi, who has so far refused to sign them. The DMK and its allies have written to President Droupadi Murmu asking her to recall the Governor. Among the Bills which are to be cleared are those on online gambling, appointment of vice chancellors to universities, and municipal administration amendment.
“The Governor has not even explained why he wouldn’t sign the Bills. This behaviour is unconstitutional,” A Saravanan, a spokesperson of DMK told The Quint.
However, the DMK has run out of patience with the Governor because of several recent statements he has made on controversial matters. “The statements he has made in the last one year, make RN Ravi a spectacular example of who a Governor should not be. Many of his statements were not at all gubernatorial,” said Manuraj Sundaram, DMK spokesperson to The Quint.
To top it all, the memorandum submitted to the President read, “The Governor has been unabashedly propagating dangerous, divisive, religious rhetoric in public…” What statements of Ravi have irked the DMK? Here’s a closer look.
Statement 1: ‘Sanatana Dharma Made Bharat’
In its memorandum to the President, the DMK has claimed Governor Ravi “has developed an unfortunate propensity to publicly profess his lack of faith in the secular ideals of this country and frequently engages in divisive rhetoric.”
It is no secret that the DMK found Ravi’s statement, made in June this year, on Sanatana Dharma provocative. Praising Sanatana Dharma, which is a preferred nomenclature for Hinduism among supporters of the RSS, the Governor said:
“The Constitution does not embody the soul of India. The Constitution is for governance. Bharatam was born thousands of years before the Constitution and our mission is Ore Bharatam (One India).”
DMK Spokesperson Manuraj Sundaram said, “Why should the Governor support such Brahminical notions of a religion? Such statements are being made to create a foothold for the BJP in Tamil Nadu, by harping on divisive politics.”
The DMK’s letter to the President further read, “This is an embarrassment to our government which has utmost commitment to the secular ethos of this nation.”
According to the DMK, Governor Ravi has been making provocative statements to create religious polaralisation in the state. "The Governor cannot make politically coloured statements," Sundaram stressed.
Statement 2: ‘Ayyappa Seva is Rashtra Seva’
Close on the heels of his statement on Sanatana Dharma, Ravi, in June 2022, said “Ayyappa Seva is Rashtra Seva” or the devotion to Sabarimala deity Lord Ayyappa is equal to serving the country. The statement was widely criticised in Tamil Nadu, with the DMK pointing out that the practices of one religion should not be foregrounded by the Governor who holds an office sanctioned by the secular Constitution of India.
Ravi had also reportedly said:
“This country was made by our sages who expounded the truth as represented in the Vedas.”
Two TN political leaders – DMK’s TR Baalu and MDMK’s Vaiko – publicly opposed the statement. While Baalu called it an insult to secularism, Vaiko called it an effort to toe the RSS line.
DMK spokesperson Sundaram said, “When a Governor makes statements there's a certain credibility which gets assigned to these. But of late, even people are able to see through his statements.”
Does the DMK find the Governor’s ideological positions a political threat? “We have made it clear that the Governor is indulging in behaviour which is extraconstitutional. Hence we are not worried,” Sundaram said.
However, RN Ravi’s statements have often complemented Tamil Nadu BJP’s efforts to rake up controversies, mostly fronted by former IPS officer turned BJP State President K Annamalai.
For instance, when Annamalai accused the DMK government of glossing over the Coimbatore car blast incident of 23 October 2022, Governor Ravi also asked the government why it took four days for the state to ask for National Investigation Agency’s help. Coimbatore Police had already arrested six persons in connection with the case, before the files were transferred to the NIA.
Statement 3: ‘Thirukkural Was Despiritualised’
Speaking at the Thirukkural Conference at Anna University, Chennai in October 2022, Ravi said that the ancient Tamil text carries the “essence of Bharatiya Spirituality.” The Governor went on to state that missionaries who translated the text had “despiritualised it to serve their own vested interest.” The Governor further stated that the Thirukkural written by Thiruvalluvar needed to be “restored to its full glory.”
The DMK has asked the Governor to substantiate his statements.
“This is a person who does not know Tamil, speaking about a text which was translated by several Tamil scholars. How can he know that the text was not translated properly. Such statements are nothing but disinformation”Manuraj Sundaram, DMK Spokesperson
The Governor’s office has not responded to the DMK’s memorandum or the subsequent statements given by party representatives. However, it is to be noted that the Governor has not attempted to retract any of his statements.
Statement 4: ‘India Is Dependent on One Religion’
Governor Ravi had stated that different countries have adopted their own state religions. "Every country has one uniform religion, and India is no exception," he had said. The DMK had objected to this statement, accusing the Governor of speaking against the secular fabric of India.
"Some of these statements by the Governor can even be considered seditious because they oppose all Constitutional values."A Saravanan DMK Spokesperson
In the memorandum, the ruling parties wrote, "This statement is an affront to the Constitution of India. India is dependent on the constitution and not any religion."
While the DMK may not get the support of the President in removing the governor, the party is clear that it has managed to make its point. The DMK has decided to "consistently oppose the Governor" to get him to fulfill his constitutional duties and maintain the dignity of the office he holds, DMK's Manuraj Sundaram said.