In the backdrop of recent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, Governor Banwarilal Purohit in the Tamil Nadu Assembly today said the government was committed to protecting the interests of all citizens irrespective of their religion.
The main opposition DMK and its allies including the Congress, however, staged a walkout and boycotted his address amid slogans against the new law.
In his customary address to the House, Mr Purohit said the government was "firmly treading" the path laid by late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and the focus was on the socio-economic growth of Tamil Nadu.
Without any direct reference to the new law or protests against it, the governor said the government "will ensure that the interests of all citizens regardless of religion or creed are protected."
In the same breath, he said Tamil Nadu will urge the Centre to provide dual citizenship to Sri Lankan Tamil refugees.
DMK and several others have held several protests against the Citizenship Act in Tamil Nadu.The principal opposition party had also demanded a resolution against the CAA in the Assembly.
MK Stalin listed the reasons for boycotting Mr Purohit's address: "Tamil Nadu's debt has increased to Rs four lakh crore. There is no industrial growth and no new job opportunities. There was no response from the Governor on the recommendation of the State government to release seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case."
He blamed the AIADMK government for supporting the new law in the Parliament and "betraying minorities and the Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka."
Mr Purohit, on devolution of funds from the Centre said: "There has been a diminution in the overall flow of Central funds to Tamil Nadu," adding that Tamil Nadu faced a very severe adverse impact due to the horizontal distribution formula of the 14th Finance Commission.
The state eagerly awaited the 15th Finance Commission recommendations and the government is hopeful of a "fair and equitable distribution of resources, which rewards efficiency and performance."
This year, Tamil Nadu has so far received Rs 7,096 crore as GST compensation and Central grants of Rs 17,957.31 crore.
"However, there are a few outstanding issues in the release of dues to Tamil Nadu which are being followed up closely."
On river water issues, the Governor urged the Centre to ensure that the Detailed Project Report for the Mekedatu project by Karnataka was rejected.
He wanted the Union government to restrain Karnataka from taking up any construction activity in the Cauvery basin. Karnataka was also planning a reservoir across the Markandeya river in the Pennaiyar basin, Purohit said and reiterated the government's opposition to it.
Tamil Nadu also went to the Supreme Court on this matter and based on an interim order, the State had requested the Centre to constitute a tribunal on the Pennaiyar dispute.
A tribunal should be set up at the earliest, he urged and wanted a direction to Karnataka to not take up any work in the Pennaiyar basin without Tamil Nadu's consent.
"Tamil Nadu is a water deficit State and inter basin transfer of river water is essential to meet its needs," he said and urged the Centre to divert at least 200 tmc ft of water from Godavari to Cauvery basin in the initial stage.
The governor also asked Kerala and the Centre to accord requisite clearances for strengthening the Mullaperiyar dam. He thanked the Andhra Pradesh government for release of water from Kandaleru reservoir for meeting Chennai's drinking water needs.
As soon as Governor Purohit began his customary address, Stalin was on his feet trying to raise some issues. The Governor appealed to the DMK president to resume his seat.
"You are the best orator. Please use your skills for debate. Let this House be used for debate," he told Mr Stalin.
However, the DMK members demanded that the Leader of the Opposition be allowed to raise his point.
As the governor repeated his appeal, Mr Stalin walked out of the House followed by his party MLAs.
DMK member Poongothai Aladi Aruna, a former minister, shouted "down down CAA" slogan and walked out. MLA Tamimun Ansari, an ally of the ruling AIADMK, walked towards the Governor's podium and waved a miniature national flag in front of him.
Both the leaders came back to the House wearing black clothes to protest again the citizenship law.
The Citizenship Amendment Act makes, for the first time, religion a test of citizenship. The government says it will help non-Muslim refugees from three neighbouring Muslim-dominated countries become citizens if they fled to India because of religious persecution. Critics say it violates secular tenets of the Constitution and discriminates against Muslims.