Why A TV Remote Is At The Centre Of The Latest DMK-AIADMK Tiff
“Why did the Chief Secretary behave in a strange manner towards us? We are justified in wondering as to whose orders he was following in behaving in a “cut and dried” manner towards us, Members of Parliament.”
With this latest statement, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MP TR Baalu has taken the fight from the seniormost bureaucrat of Tamil Nadu to the ruling party.
In reality, the fight began over a mere TV remote.
On May 13, a DMK MP delegation comprising TR Baalu, Dayanidhi Maran, Kalanidhi Veerasamy and Tamizhachi Thangapandian went to meet Chief Secretary K Shanmugam to hand over petitions collected by the party from one lakh people affected by the lockdown.
The appointment was a scheduled one. Surprisingly, after the meet, MP TR Baalu released a statement lashing out at the Chief Secretary, stating that “he did not accord the reception due to the Members of Parliament”, that he was “watching television at a high volume” and that as they left, he said “this is the problem with you people.”
The worst slight of all, according to the MPs was that when one of them asked an attender to turn down the volume of the television, the Chief Secretary “stopped him from doing so.”
In return, on May 14, Chief Secretary K Shanmugam issued a statement. “When I was told they were coming, I got up from my seat and stood near the door to receive them. I then invited them to sit on the sofa,” he stated, adding that he had, at no time, disrespected the MPs.
He also denied the claim of Baalu that he was watching television – “the Union Finance Minister’s speech was going on and I left the Finance Secretary to take notes while I went to speak with the delegation. When I got up from my seat to welcome the MPs itself, I had reduced the TV volume. The Finance Secretary was watching the television and taking notes. There was no distraction or disturbance to our conversation,” he wrote in his statement. He also added that the television cannot be viewed while sitting on the sofa in his room.
Shanmugam writes that he was repeatedly pressed by MPs Baalu and Maran for a precise date by which he would act upon the grievances detailed in the one lakh petitions – he stated that it was impossible to give a date since the staff was stretched thin but that he would definitely act upon the grievances.
According to Shanmugam’s statement, the MPs then asked if they could tell the press that the Chief Secretary had refused to give a date. Shanmugam says he requested them not to do so but to state that the Chief Secretary said he would act upon it.
When the MPs pressed him on the point, Shanmugam states that he replied – “This is the problem with you people, you don’t understand our difficulties,” and then said they were free to say whatever they intended to to the press.
Now MP TR Baalu has written to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, calling for a Privilege Motion to be moved against the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary.
At a time when the state machinery is relentlessly battling a tidal wave of COVID-19 cases, it appears that the Opposition has other issues on its mind.
And to think it all began with a TV remote!