CHENNAI: Taking a dig at north Indian residents here, Minister PK Sekar Babu on Wednesday said over the years, including the 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly polls, they have not voted for the DMK.
The party's elected representatives, however, have worked for them and would continue to do so as it considered them as "one among us," he said.
His remarks came in for strong criticism from the BJP and some social media users.
Babu, Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, said though he used to be asked as to why he worked for them as they did not vote for the DMK, his answer was that they too were sons of this soil, which was also the party's stand.
The work for the north Indian people by DMK is based on the principle that an elected representative, an MLA or the Chief Minister is common to all the people, irrespective of whether or not someone had voted in favour of a party that won polls, he said.
Several areas of north Chennai, particularly a number of localities falling under the Harbour Assembly constituency, is home to a large number of people, who are natives of mainly Rajasthan and a section of them, Gujarat.
Babu, a DMK district secretary (Chennai-East), was elected from Harbour seat.
The party's elected representatives, him and the Lok Sabha MP (Central Chennai) Dayanidhi Maran fully worked to guard the interests of residents, who are natives of north India in matters including constraints in building houses, he said.
"We have worked for you without expecting anything in return," Babu said addressing an event organised by Mahavir International Chennai Metro (MICM) here.
Despite the work through the years, be it the Lok Sabha polls of 2019 or the Assembly elections including 2021, most people from the community did not vote for the DMK, he said.
"We did not get remarkable number of votes from areas where you live in large numbers. It does not matter. Even if you have not voted for us, we will continue to work for you."
During his campaign for the April 6 Assembly polls, Babu said the party had fervently appealed to the community to vote in its favour though they had not done so in previous elections.
Still, the party was not chosen and citing an example, Babu said in a particular locality, the DMK got 50 votes and the BJP about 300.
If asked about their choice, the community members had maintained that their vote was for the DMK, he said.
Seeking to reject their claim, the Minister said in this age of Electronic Voting Machines, specific, area-wise data on the electorate's choice can be zeroed in, he said.
Such data for the 2021 polls revealed that they did not vote for DMK this time too, whose MLA and MP worked for them, he said in an obvious snide remark.
Despite them not voting for DMK, the party and its elected representatives would not ignore them, he said.
"We, the DMK are here to work for you," he said and quoted a couplet from Tamil classic 'Thirukkural' to buttress his point. The crux of the 'Inna Seitharai' couplet is good deeds for even those who have been bad and Babu said he would send a copy of the Hindi version of Thirukkural to them.
"We welcome good deeds, whoever does it," he said on the free food distribution, food bank initiative of MICM to help people affected by the pandemic.
"We don't consider you as people from outside. We consider you as from our state. We regard you as one among us," the Minister said and thanked the organisers of the event.
The Minister's remarks came in for severe criticism from a section of social media users.
BJP's national president of mahila morcha and MLA from Coimbatore-south, Vanathi Srinivasan tweeted, "The hatred spewed by Minister Sekar Babu against North Indians are condemnable and disturbing."
"To see elected officials discriminate Indians on the basis of their native roots is against every grain and soul of our constitution. Thiru.@mkstalin should take immediate action."
When votes for the Assembly polls were counted on May 2, in a number of rounds, BJP's Vinoj P Selvam was leading in Harbour constituency.
Selvam eventually finished runner-up and the Saffron party, an ally of the AIADMK secured 32,043 votes and DMK's Babu got 59,317 votes.