Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam should not be compelled to revive the demand for a separate Tamil Nadu by denying it state autonomy, MP A Raja on Sunday told the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government, PTI reported.

Raja, while addressing a conference of the party’s local body representatives in Namakkal, said that social reformer Periyar, whom the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, considers as its ideological leader, advocated for Tamil Nadu to separate from India.

Chief Minister MK Stalin was present at the event.

“I am telling Amit Shah and the Prime Minister with utmost humility, I implore you in the presence of [our] leaders on the dais, our chief minister is journeying on the path of Anna [DMK founder CN Annadurai], do not push us on the path of Periyar,” he said.

He added: “Do not make us seek a separate country, give state autonomy and we will not rest till then.”

Raja also said that the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has been championing the cause of state autonomy for several decades, The Indian Express reported. The attack on state autonomy has increased under the current BJP-led central government and it has turned the states into “beggars before Delhi for funds”, he said.

Tamil Nadu gets a less than 1.2% of the funds allocated to all states from the Centre, despite making 10% contribution to the country’s Goods and Services Tax revenues, Raja added. The MP also said that till the time Tamil Nadu is with India, its residents will not get any economic growth or any part in jobs, India Today reported.

“He [Periyar] urged the youth to build an independent Tamil Nadu,” Raja said, according to The Indian Express. “He said that an independent Tamil Nadu is the final destiny. Even though we regard him as the founder of our political thought, we have abandoned his call for the sake of India’s unification.”

BJP leaders said that Raja was harbouring a separatist ambition in Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu BJP President K Annamalai said that Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam believed it was entitled to plunder the state when in power, according to The Indian Express. When the party is questioned over anything, it propagates separatism, he said.

“What’s generally pre-election rhetoric has begun this early isn’t surprising given the obstacles DMK men face in their pursuit of wealth through corrupt means,” he said. “Facing falling popularity after failing promises, CM Stalin should invent a better excuse for not delivering instead of pushing their defunct propaganda,” he added.

BJP National General Secretary CT Ravi said Raja’s comments were a testimony of the failed politics of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, PTI reported.

“If they [DMK] are talking about such things in Tamil Nadu after doing five decades of politics, it is clear that BJP’s growth is turning the heat on them,” he said. “Realising that their ideology has failed, they are talking about such things.”

The statements by Raja were made on the same day that BJP, during its national executive meeting in Hyderabad, pledged to form governments in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Odisha.