Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP DNV Senthilkumar S landed in controversy on Tuesday after he described the Hindi heartland states as “gaumutra”, or cow urine states, in the Lok Sabha.

The legislator from Tamil Nadu’s Dharmapuri constituency made the remarks in reference to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s victories in the Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls on Sunday. The three states are part of the country’s Hindi heartland.

In Telangana, the Congress won the Assembly election, while the BJP increased its tally from one seat to eight.

Senthilkumar said “The people of this country should think that the power of this BJP is only winning elections mainly in the heartland states of Hindi and what we generally call the gaumutra states. You cannot come to south India...you see all the results of what happens in Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Telangana and Karnataka.”

The DMK MP made the comments while participating in a discussion on the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill.

The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, proposes to increase the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the Union Territory from 83 to 90. It also proposes to reserve seven seats for Scheduled Castes and nine seats for Scheduled Tribes, and certain nominated seats for Kashmiri migrants and displaced persons.

The Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill proposes to change the nomenclature of “weak and underprivileged classes” to “Other Backward Classes” in the union territory.

Senthilkumar said that the BJP is trying to change the political structure in Jammu and Kashmir because it cannot win elections in the region.

“Since they are not able to do that, they [convert] a state into a Union Territory, where they can have the control over the governor and then they can run the governance through that,” he said. “If they were capable and confident of winning in Jammu and Kashmir, would they have gone for a Union Territory?”

Senthilkumar said that he would not be surprised if the BJP government at the Centre decided to convert the southern states into Union Territories so that it could indirectly rule over them.

“You can never dream of setting foot over there and taking control of all these southern states,” he said.

BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi said the Tamil Nadu MP’s remarks were disrespectful towards the Sanatani tradition, a term that some people use as a synonym for Hinduism.

“The DMK will soon understand the benefits of cow urine because the country will not tolerate this frustration of Sanatanis,” she told PTI. “Those who disrespect the beliefs of the country will face a strong response from the people.”

BJP Rajya Sabha MP GVL Narasimha Rao described Senthilkumar’s remarks as hate speech reflecting the frustration of the Opposition alliance INDIA.

“Cow urine holds significance not only in north India, but south India as well,” Rao told PTI. “Cow is considered mother and it is worshipped.”

Rao also said that Senthilkumar’s mentality is similar to those people who were comparing Sanatana Dharma, another term that some use to refer to Hinduism, to dengue and malaria. In September, Tamil Nadu minister Udhayanidhi Stalin, the son of the state’s Chief Minister MK Stalin, had said that Sanatana Dharma was akin to dengue and malaria, and should hence be annihilated.

Congress MP Karti P Chidambaram said that Senthilkumar’s choice of words was very unfortunate.

“Unparliamentary,” Chidambaram said in a tweet. “Dr Senthilkumar must forthwith apologize and withdraw his comments.”

Following the uproar, the Senthilkumar said later on Tuesday that if his remarks have hurt someone’s feelings he would not use them again, reported ANI.

“I have used this before in my Parliament speeches,” he said. “It was not a controversial statement. If it touches somebody, I will try to avoid using it next time. I will use some other words to mention that where the BJP is strong in getting their votes.”