Bharatiya Janata Party’s Tamil Nadu chief Tamilisai Soundararajan on Wednesday expelled party worker R Muthuraman, who was arrested on Tuesday for damaging a statue of social reformer EV Ramaswamy – also known as Periyar – in Vellore.

“Our party never accepts such activities,” Soundararajan said on Twitter.

There have been cases of violence in parts of Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Tripura after statues of Lenin and Periyar were vandalised. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday asked state governments to deal with instances of vandalism “sternly”.

Reports on Tuesday said Muthuraman and a Communist Party of India (Marxist) worker, identified as Francis, were arrested after they damaged the bust. The Tamil Nadu Police said the two men were in an inebriated state at the time of arrest. The Tamil Nadu government told the Madras High Court on Wednesday afternoon that the police had arrested four people, so far.

Their arrest came hours after BJP leader H Raja said on Facebook: “Today Lenin’s statue, tomorrow Tamil Nadu’s EV Ramaswami’s statue,” referring to an incident in Tripura, where a statue of communist icon Lenin was brought down, allegedly by BJP workers.

Raja’s comments about Periyar drew sharp reactions from leaders across party lines. The BJP distanced itself from the remarks, calling it Raja’s personal opinion. Raja has since removed the Facebook post and said it was published without his permission.

Periyar is revered in Tamil Nadu for fighting the caste system, speaking out against the exploitation of the Dravidian people and establishing the Dravida Kazhagam, the ideological parent of two major Dravidian parties of the state.

Meanwhile, P Muralidhar Rao, the BJP’s general secretary in charge of Tamil Nadu, also issued a statement saying his party did not subscribe to “any kind of provoking or disrespectful statements and actions of vandalism towards leaders like Periyar”, The Hindu reported. “We condemn those people who are indulging in such actions.”