Tamil Nadu Bharatiya Janata Party leader H Raja on Tuesday stoked controversy by saying that after Vladimir Lenin’s statue was brought down in Tripura, social reformer Periyar’s statues in Tamil Nadu would be the next target. The BJP won the Tripura Assembly elections on March 3, replacing the Left government, which had ruled there for 25 years.

In a Facebook post he later deleted, the BJP national secretary said, “Who is Lenin? What is his connection to India? What is the connection of Communists to India? Lenin’s statue was destroyed in Tripura. Today Lenin’s statue, tomorrow Tamil Nadu’s EVR Ramaswami’s [Periyar’s] statue.”

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Communist Party of India, and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) criticised Raja’s comments. DMK Working President MK Stalin said Raja should be arrested under the Goonda Act. MDMK leader Vaiko warned that whoever touched Periyar’s statue “would have their hands chopped off”.

The DMK has announced protests against Raja and the BJP in many parts of Tamil Nadu, The News Minute reported.

However, Tamil Nadu BJP spokesperson Narayanan Tirupathi said that Periyar’s statues preached the message that whoever had faith in God was a fool, News18 reported. He said that Hindutva outfits had been demanding for a long time that the statues be removed.