In the first ministerial reshuffle in his Cabinet, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin on Tuesday divested Transport Minister RS Rajakannappan of his portfolio and made him the Minister of Backward Classes. This came a day after a block development officer filed a complaint against Rajakannappan for using casteist slurs against him.

SS Sivasankar, who held the portfolio of Backward Classes Welfare and Denotified Communities Welfare, has been appointed as the transport minister, a press release by the Raj Bhavan said.

The portfolios of Transport, Nationalised Transport and Motor Vehicles Act have been allocated to Sivasankar, the statement added. The portfolios of Backward Classes Welfare, Most Backward Classes Welfare and Denotified Communities Welfare have been allocated to Rajakannappan.

This move, albeit ironic by Stalin, is meant to lower the Cabinet rank of Rajakannappan, unidentified officials told The News Minute.

The incident

Mudukulathur Block Development Officer Rajendran had filed a complaint with the district collector on March 28, a day after Rajakannappan allegedly used casteist slurs against him, reported The Indian Express.

The 57-year-old officer was summoned to the politician’s home in Sivaganga on Sunday, when the alleged incident took place.

In a video, Rajendran said that when he greeted the minister, he was shouted at and called a Scheduled Caste officer repeatedly.

Rajakannappan then allegedly told the officer that he got the position because he was Scheduled Caste. The minister also threatened to transfer him to some other district soon.

“Shouting at me, he said I have no right to sit in the seat and kept on calling me SC BDO at least five or six times,” he said in the video, noting that this was the most traumatic and humiliating incident in his life.

“I was sitting and crying before him,” Rajendran added. “He treated me like a dog and asked me to get out of the house.”

Opposition reaction

Nirmal Kumar, the Tamil Nadu BJP unit president of Information Technology and social media, asked the National Commission of Scheduled Caste to intervene and take necessary action against the minister.

“MK Stalin uses ‘social justice’ only for election and will not take any action on this matter,” he wrote on Twitter.

SG Suryah, an author and BJP media spokesperson, also criticised the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government.

“Instead of registering a police case under PCR for abusing a Dalit state government employee, DMK Minister Rajakannappan is shifted out of Transport Ministry and allotted Backward Classes and Minority Welfare Ministry,” he said in a tweet. “In DMK government it seems like [there are] different laws for citizens and ministers?”

Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam party condemned the Stalin-led government for not taking any action against Rajakannappan. “Is social justice a lesson for the people...not for the minister?” the party asked.