DMK leader R S Bharathi held for alleged remarks against SC

community, gets interim bail (Eds: Adds quotes of Stalin, TN CM) Chennai, May 23 (PTI) DMK's Rajya Sabha MP R S Bharathi was arrested on Saturday for his alleged disparaging remarks made against the Scheduled Caste community a few months ago, prompting an exchange of words between the party chief MK Stalin and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami.

Stalin alleged the arrest was a ploy by the ruling AIADMK to 'divert' attention from corruption and the government's 'failure' to handle the COVID-19 situation, remarks that drew sharp rebuke from Palaniswami who charged the opposition leader with enacting a 'drama' to gain political mileage.

Earlier on Saturday, Bharathi, the 73 year-old DMK Organisation Secretary, was picked up from his residence.

He was later granted interim bail till June 1 by a city court after it was informed that the Madras High Court was already seized of a surrender application filed by him which is coming up on Wednesday.

Bharathi alleged he was being targeted for trying to expose instances of corruption in the AIADMK-led government.

He was arrested for allegedly making the comments against the SC community, with a case being filed against him recently under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act based on a complaint.

Bharathi said his remarks made at a DMK meeting in February had been 'twisted' and said it was not reported in any newspaper while 'some in the social media carried out a campaign against me.' Speaking to reporters here, he said he had 'responded' to the issue then in the media and more than 100 days had passed since then.

'Today they come to arrest me,' he said and claimed he was being targeted for exposing certain corruption issues in the government but added his party will not be cowed down.

Meanwhile, a number of DMK lawyers, including P Wilson and N R Elango, both Rajya Sabha members, submitted before principal sessions judge Selvakumar that Bharathi's arrest was totally 'unwarranted' and that too effected during the lockdown.

They mentioned Bharathi apprehended arrest in the matter and that the High Court was already seized of the surrender application filed by him which was coming up on May 27.

Acceding to their plea for reprieve in the meantime, sessions judge Selvakumar granted Bharathi interim bail till June 1.

The Teynampet police here had registered a case against Bharathi under IPC provisions besides that of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, based on a complaint by 'Athi Tamilar Makkal Katchi' leader Kalyanasundaram.

The case was later transferred to the CCB (central crime branch) for further probe.

The arrest prompted an exchange of words between Stalin and Palaniswami.

Training his guns against the chief minister, Stalin condemned the action and wondered why the police acted on a three month old case.

He said Bharathi had filed complaints of corruption in portfolios handled by Palaniswami, his deputy O Panneerselvam and his cabinet colleague SP Velumani.

'To hide his administrative failure in dealing with coronavirus and divert attention from corruption, Palaniswami has arrested Bharathi,' Stalin said in a statement.

Stalin claimed his party was in the forefront on the issue of reaching out to the SC community and slammed Bharathi's arrest as 'childish, half-baked and misuse of authority.' His party will not be cowed down by such antics, he added.

Hitting back at Stalin, Palaniswami said Bharathi was arrested based on a case filed by the police after a person had filed a complaint, and said neither he nor the government had anything to do with it.

'This is a planned campaign by Stalin to gain political mileage which is condemnable,' he told reporters at Salem,his native place.

Instead of trying to escape responsibility by blaming others, Stalin should have reprimanded Bharathi for having made such remarks, he said.

Indicating there was no corruption as was being made out by the DMK, he further said the matter was sub-judice.

On Stalin's criticism on the government's handling of the coronavirus situation, he said thanks to the dedication of health workers, the state was better placed in tackling the spread of the pandemic.

Stalin was not aware of this, he said, adding that the state was leading in number of tests conducted and labs, even as it was earning accolades from medical professionals and those undergoing treatment for the virus. PTI SA CORR BN WELCOME BN WELCOME