Chennai: H Raja, a national secretary of the BJP and Tamil Nadu leader, has drawn flak for posting on Twitter a photo of actor Vijay's voter ID card and official letterhead, his purpose to stress that the popular star is a Christian and his full name is C Vijay Joseph. That, Mr Raja has asserted, is the reason for the actor's latest film Mersal containing dialogues critical of new national tax GST, introduced by the BJP government at the Centre in July this year.
"Truth is bitter," tweeted Mr Raja, who has claimed that Mersal exposes Vijay's "hatred" for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "Vijay is a practising Christian. He should have said build hospitals before churches, instead he says build hospitals before temples. It is like provoking Hindus," the BJP leader said, refusing to take into account the fact that Vijay's character in the film is a Hindu.
H Raja has been accused on Twitter of communalising the Mersal row and also for making public a person's personal details. Some critics accused the BJP of double standards, posting photos of Prime Minister Modi with Vijay ahead of the 2016 assembly polls.
On Sunday, H Raja was criticised by actor Vishal, who is president of the Tamil Film Producers Council, for saying in a TV interview that he had watched Mersal online. "A national leader of a national party has just confessed to watching a newly released film not in the theatre, but illegally. Being a leader who is known by the public, how can you support piracy without any shame?" the actor said in a statement. The BJP leader later clarified he only watched a portion he received on WhatsApp.
The BJP wants the GST dialogues to be removed from Mersal which was released last week on Diwali and has crossed, according to its producers, 150 crore in ticket sales. The party's state chief Tamilisai Soundararajan has led the campaign against the film.
On Friday, union minister Pon Radhakrishnan too said it the film must be edited to exclude what he called "untruths" about the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The film's producers met the Ms Soundarajan on Saturday and have indicated that they are ready to edit the scenes that mention GST, introduced in July by the Centre and defended by PM Modi as a key structural reform for the economy.
"From their perspective, their opposition is just. If opinions (expressed in the movie) that may lead to misunderstanding need to be removed, we are ready for that too," said Murali Ramaswamy, whose company Thenandal Productions produced the film. Their assertion that the film was cleared by the censor board did not impress the BJP, which has said that "wrong information on GST can't be allowed" even if it has been certified.
Opposition parties have said the BJP's demand for cuts in the film is an attack on free speech and artistic expression. Actor Kamal Haasan has weighed in. Superstar Rajinikanth stopped with his compliments to the team.
"Don't re-censor it. Counter criticism," tweeted Kamal Haasan, who has signalled that he will launch a political party soon. Rajinikanth said Mersaladdresses an important issue, though he did not refer to the GST controversy.