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Tamil Nadu Finance Minister PTR Palanivel Thiaga Rajan who has been strident in his criticism of DMK’s political enemies has now crossed swords with DMK spokesperson TKS Elangovan. When Elangovan told a journalist that PTR should have attended a recent GST meeting that he skipped, and that his comments used harsh language, PTR came out with a purported tweet that a veteran was for sale for just two kilos of shrimp, and that he had twice been removed from party posts, indicated that he was taking pot shots at his own party colleague. PTR has since withdrawn this tweet.

While a section of the media is putting out speculative reports that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin is planning to drop PTR from the ministry, due to his controversial remarks, the CM has, on the contrary, approved PTR’s name for a GST panel being set up by the Union Finance ministry. PTR has thanked Stalin for including his name. Stalin continues to repose confidence in PTR. That is the message for

Stalin caused a surprise when he chose party newcomer PTR Palanivel Thiaga Rajan for the coveted post of Finance Minister. Normally, the finance minister is virtually the number two in the party and the government. Considered a political greenhorn, Thiaga Rajan was chosen as he not only hailed from an illustrious Dravidian movement family but due to his stint abroad, and his work in multinational companies. It that his background in the field of finance and economics would help Stalin guide the State through this difficult phase where the State’s finances have been crippled due to the corona pandemic, and ways have to be found quickly to increase inflow into the State treasury.

Even as Stalin and other senior ministers have been guarded in their criticism of the BJP, Thiaga Rajan’s comments have been virulent, colourful and acerbic

PTR made a quick impact in various interviews to the media two months ago, and was projected as a no-nonsense finance minister who meant business. As promised by him, a White Paper on Tamil Nadu’s financial situation particularly with relation to the huge debt burden imposed on the State by successive AIADMK governments brought out the dire situation of the State Government. He successfully presented a picture of mismanagement by the AIADMK governments and his own attempts to give a correctional course.

However, what has caused a storm in political circles is his sharp attack against BJP and AIADMK leaders of the State. PTR hails from the family of PT Rajan, one of the stalwarts of the Justice Party, the precursor to the Dravidar Kazhagam founded by EV Ramaswami (Periyar), from which were formed the breakaway groups of the DMK, and later the AIADMK. PT Rajan’s son, PTR Palanivelrajan, (Thiaga Rajan’s father), was also a prominent leader of the DMK especially in Madurai and other southern parts of Tamil Nadu. It is natural that Thiaga Rajan should hold strong views against the right-wing, Hindutva policies of the BJP. Even as Stalin and other senior ministers have been guarded in their criticism of the BJP, limiting themselves to expressing their opposition to specific decisions of the Union government, Thiaga Rajan’s comments have been virulent, colourful and acerbic.

While BJP and AIADMK leaders squirm and reveal their uneasiness over the political attacks, PTR is quite cool about it. For instance, his criticism of BJP representatives at the earlier GST council meeting, including pot-shots at Finance minister Nirmala Seetharaman have been welcomed with glee by sections which are strongly opposed to the BJP.

PTR’s remarks have stunned BJP leaders as they are not used to strong statements against them or the party, sitting smug as they are as representatives of a no-holds-barred NDA government at the Centre.

His decision to abstain from the last GST council meeting on the ground that the agenda for the meet was given to him at the eleventh hour, and that he had already committed to other functions, came in for sharp criticism from both the BJP and the AIADMK. State BJP president K Annamalai’s pointed criticism of PTR’s absence got a provocative retort from PTR in a tweet that he was schizophrenic, and reminded the state BJP president that he had claimed that he would be a Kannadiga till his death. These remarks stunned the BJP leaders as they were not used to strong statements against them or the party, sitting smug as they are as representatives of a no-holds-barred NDA government at the Centre.

While other leaders of the DMK have chosen to soft-pedal their way when it came to criticism of the BJP, PTR’s diatribes have some as a surprise even to DMK seniors. So far, Stalin has refrained from pulling up his Finance minister, though there are unofficial reports that he had sent word to the minister to be less harsh in his political remarks, and maintain parliamentary language. On one occasion, in the State Legislative Assembly, Stalin chose to apologise to AIADMK members for certain remarks made by PTR. He did so in the presence of PTR.

When a party spokesman TKS Elangovan clarified to a journalist that PTR should have attended the GST meeting, and that his comments used harsh language, PTR came out with a purported tweet that a veteran was for sale for just two kilos of shrimp, and that he had twice been removed from party posts, indicated that he was taking pot shots at his own party colleague. However, PTR, a little later, withdrew this tweet.

For the record, PTR claims that he has not crossed the Lakshman Rekha or used unparliamentary language but merely chooses the apt words to put in place political hypocrisy on the part of the BJP and AIADMK leaders. His tweets have a large following among netizens who like his plain-talk and his strident criticism of the BJP without mincing words. They feel that at a time when most politicians are scared of crossing swords with the BJP, here was one leader who was willing to take the plunge, and retaliate to BJP’s charges.

Some netizens believe PTR is acting out of righteous indignation like the celebrated national poet, Subramania Bharati.

There is little doubt that PTR has emerged as the stormy petrel of the DMK.


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