Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP A Raja has stirred a controversy after he said that India is not a nation but a subcontinent, and that the people of Tamil Nadu would never accept slogans such as “Jai Shri Ram” in the way that they are used by Hindutva proponents.

Speaking at a function in Coimbatore on March 1, Raja said that India was never “one nation” in a conventional sense with a single language, tradition and culture.

“Here, Tamil Nadu is a country with one language and one culture,” said the legislator, according to The Indian Express. “Malayalam is another language and a culture. Keeping them all together is what made India – this makes India a subcontinent, not a country.”

Referring to supporters of the convicts in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case chanting “Jai Shri Ram” slogans when the men were released from jail, Raja said: “If this the god you are talking about, if this is your ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, we will never accept your ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Bharat Mata’.”

He added: “Tamil Nadu cannot accept that. You go and tell everyone that we are enemies of Ram.”

The remarks attracted sharp criticism from the Bharatiya Janata Party. In a press conference on Tuesday, party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said that Raja’s statements reflect a “Maoist ideology”, reported The Hindu.

He also asked if other constituents of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, or INDIA bloc, agreed with the MP’s remarks.

INDIA bloc is a coalition of 28 Opposition parties that plans to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is part of the alliance.

Prasad claimed that insulting India’s ethos publicly, humiliating Hindu gods and questioning “the very idea of India has become the hallmark of the political agenda of the INDIA bloc”.

INDIA bloc members criticise remarks

Several members of political parties from the INDIA bloc also said on Tuesday that they disagreed with Raja’s remarks.

Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said that she believes “Ram belongs to everyone and is all-encompassing”.

She said: “I believe that Ram, who was called Imam-e-Hind, is above communities, religions and castes…It could be his [Raja’s] statement, I do not support it. I condemn it and I think people should exercise restraint while talking.”

Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) spokesperson Anand Dubey said that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin “should stop such people”, referring to Raja.

“A Rajaji, you do not believe in Lord Ram or Baba Sahib Ambedkar or the Constitution or the country’s unity and integrity,” Dubey was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times. “Then what do you believe in?”

Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Tejashwi Yadav said the remarks do not represent the INDIA bloc’s stance.