BJP deletes 'distasteful' tweet on Periyar post outrage

BJP deletes 'distasteful' tweet on Periyar post outrage

As Tamil Nadu observed the 46th death anniversary of social reformer E V R Periyar, the state BJP unit stoked a controversy by tweeting “distasteful” comments about the legendary Dravidian leader’s marriage with a much younger Maniammai, only to delete the post after an outrage.

The tweet stoked a major row with almost all political parties condemning it outright and asking the BJP not to “defame” and make “slanderous comments” against Periyar, the social activist whose policies and fight against discrimination brought in much-needed reforms in Tamil Nadu.

"Today is the death anniversary of Maniammai's father Periyar (He married her when she was 32 and he 70) Let us express support for awarding the death penalty to those who sexually abuse children. Let us also take a pledge to create a society sans POSCO offenders," the tweet in Tamil read.

The tweet was, however, deleted from BJP Tamil Nadu unit’s official handle in a few hours but the same content was posted on another Twitter handle of the party’s state unit IT cell. However, that tweet was also deleted a couple of hours later after all-round condemnation both inside and outside Twitter.

The BJP, which views Periyar as its ideological opponent and aims to emerge as an alternative to Dravidian political parties, chose to wade into Periyar’s personal life to attack him on his death anniversary.  

Though the social reformer’s marriage with much younger Maniammai had always been a point of political discussion in Tamil Nadu, BJP just took it to a different level. It was Periyar’s marriage with Maniammai, then just 32, at the age of 70 that caused a rift between Periyar and his protégé C N Annadurai who quit the Dravidar Kazhagam and floated the DMK in 1949.

This is the second time that BJP has targeted Periyar in as many years. In 2018 March, party leader H Raja had tweeted that quite soon, statues of the social reformer in Tamil Nadu will also be demolished. He made the remarks after Communist leader Vladimir Lenin’s bust was brought down in Tripura after the BJP breached the CPI-M’s stronghold in the assembly polls.

DMK President M K Stalin, AIADMK minister D Jayakumar, and PMK founder S Ramadoss are some of the leaders who condemned the BJP for its tweets.

“Shouldn’t the BJP, which deleted a post that degrades Periyar after outrage, have thought before posting it? Let the fear sink in. Periyar scares (those who oppose him) even after his death. Will the AIADMK roar like a tiger or hide like an earthworm?” Stalin asked.

While Jayakumar said Tamil Nadu will always remain “Dravidian land”, Ramadoss remarked that the BJP’s tweet was “distasteful”. This is not the first time that the BJP has come under fire for its tweets targeting Tamil icons – in November, the party had tweeted a picture of saint-poet Thiruvalluvar in a saffron robe.

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