Is it the Union or the Central Govt? DMK ignites the debate in Tamil Nadu

Ondriyam (Union) is the new buzzword in Tamil Nadu politics
Last Updated : 17 August 2021, 08:16 IST
Last Updated : 17 August 2021, 08:16 IST
Last Updated : 17 August 2021, 08:16 IST
Last Updated : 17 August 2021, 08:16 IST

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Ondriyam (Union) is the new buzzword in Tamil Nadu politics.

Ever since the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led dispensation assumed charge on May 7, official statements refer to the Union Government as Ondriya Arasu instead of the usual Madhiya Arasu meaning Central Government.

The sudden change in nomenclature – it was Chief Minister M K Stalin who used the term first after the DMK won an emphatic victory in the assembly elections on May 2 – has been fodder for many political parties in the state which witnessed a regime change after a decade.

Right from the Chief Minister to his cabinet colleagues to press statements to some newspapers – the word Ondriya Arasu is being normalised in the state, much to the discomfiture of the BJP, which suspects an “ulterior motive” behind the move.

DMK quotes the Constitution to say India is a Union of States and says it is the Union Government and not the Central Government. Hence, the Tamil translation is Ondriya Arasu, the party argues.

BJP attributes ‘ulterior motive’

State BJP leaders have scoffed at the usage of the word Ondriyam and view it as the beginning of DMK’s confrontationist approach towards the Centre. AIADMK, which ruled the state for a decade from 2011, maintained friendly ties with the BJP since it assumed power at the Centre in 2014.

As an opposition party, DMK had made several sharp attacks against the BJP, which is ruling at the Centre, alleging that the saffron party was “infringing” on the state’s right. The 2021 elections were billed by the DMK as one between Tamil Nadu and Delhi (read Centre).

This is not the first time that the DMK has used the word – party founder C N Annadurai, and M Karunanidhi were the first to address the Union Government as Ondriya Arasu, but over the years, it became Madhiya Arasu.

Timing of re-introducing the term that has long been forgotten is not lost on anyone as it comes at a time many states begin to harp on Federalism and the DMK including State Autonomy in its election manifesto.

‘Union Government or Ondriya Arasu is the right term’

“Why should the word Union cause any confrontation. I am using the word because it finds mention in the Constitution, and judgements of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. How can I insult somebody by using a phrase used in the Constitution? The Government of India itself uses the term Union in all its documents. How can somebody be upset by a word they use?” Finance Minister P T R Palanivel Thiagarajan told DH.

Tamil Nadu BJP General Secretary K T Raghavan wanted to know why the DMK did not use the term before May 2.

“We feel the term is being used deliberately. Let me ask DMK and its alliance partners why they did not call the Union Government Ondriya Arasu before May 2, 2021. All the while you said Centre, and now change the track post-elections. There seems to be a malafide intention behind the whole thing,” Raghavan told DH.

AIADMK supports BJP

Not just the BJP, its ally and the principal opposition party, AIADMK, has also taken objection to the term with former CM Edappadi K Palaniswami insisting that Madhiya Arasu was the right term.

Thiagarajan, responding to EPS’ statement, said he does not understand what the former chief minister meant when he said Madhiya Arasu was the right term.

“Is he saying that the Constitution is inappropriate or is he saying the Supreme Court has been hearing cases for the past 70 years without the right counterparty? Court documents refer to the government Union of India and not the Central Government of India,” Thiagarajan told DH.

However, Raghavan questions the timing of “re-introducing” the term and asked Stalin to revert to the old practice of Centre or Central Government.

“Union is Ondriyam in Tamil, and there is no second opinion. But what is the need to popularise the term now? It does not behove a democratically-elected government to replace terms that are popular with the people. And I would like to know why the DMK re-discovered its love for Tamil only after election results,” he asked.

Raghavan also said everyone should remember that the country was one entity and states were formed only for administrative purposes.

‘We do not want a confrontationist approach’

The Finance Minister, who devoted a major portion of his speech in the 42nd GST Council meeting on May 28 to explain the importance of federal structure, also dismissed suggestions that the DMK government was getting ready for a confrontation with the Union government.

“Excluding the event of something that infringes on our right or principles, it is our earnest desire to work as closely, and as harmoniously as possible with the Union Government and it is our job. The Constitution requires us to do so,” Thiagarajan added.

Published 06 June 2021, 13:31 IST

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