Chennai: Taking strong exception to actor Kamal Haasan's reported criticism of ruling AIADMK's flood relief activities, Tamil Nadu Finance Minister O Panneerselvam on Saturday charged the actor with becoming a 'puppet' of those who tried to gain political mileage in such situations.
In a strongly-worded statement, Mr Panneerselvam, considered Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's 'Man Friday', also explained to the actor the government's spending in social sectors and disaster management and advised him to go through the budget "by allocating time in between his movie shootings".
Mr Panneerselvam's retort comes in the wake of the actor's reported criticism in a section of media, where he had purportedly said the "system has collapsed" and that he was making donations since the government had asked him and reportedly expressed his displeasure over it.
"In an extraordinary situation where Chennai had received over 40 cm of rainfall in a single day resulting in flooding, instead of being supportive of the Amma (Jayalalithaa) government, he has made wrong statement which is above his qualification," Mr Panneerselvam said.
The actor was 'confused' and had 'blabbered' unaware of the ground reality, he said.
Explaining government's relief measures, he said though the state was returning to normalcy after rains in earlier part of November, it once again struggled as it received rain in excess of 40 cm last week, a record after 1918.
"In a film produced by him, he may set right natural disaster in just one scene or a song. But reality is different. Normalcy can be restored only with proper planning and over a period of time which Amma (Jayalalithaa) is doing expeditiously," Mr Panneerselvam said.
"If he wants to know about natural disaster, he should once again watch his movie Anbe Sivam," he said.
On Ms Jayalalithaa's instructions, over 40,000 government staff were involved in flood relief, 300 boats employed while around 12 lakh affected people had been rescued and lodged in camps. So far, around 55 lakh food packets have been distributed and over 23,000 medical camps held, he said.
"In such a situation, saying that the entire system has collapsed, is not only contrary to facts, but also amounts to insulting the people of Tamil Nadu," he said.
He also slammed the actor for questioning what happened to the taxpayer's money as government solicited contributions.
"His statement shows that he has become a puppet of people who eye political mileage in such a situation," he said.
The minister said Kamal Haasan should clarify if he had 'sold himself out' to any 'evil force' which aims at creating an illusion that tax payers' money was 'misappropriated' by the government, and thus malign its reputation among people.
"Even the Rs 679 crore tax payers' money allotted for disaster mitigation in the budget for year 2015-16 is being spent now," he said, adding that the actor need not have any doubt about where the money was going and insisted that Ms Jayalalithaa was keen to ensure taxes were not wasted.
Her government was not seeking 'alms' from the actor, but he was trying to gain 'cheap publicity' by making an offer claiming he was doing it for people, Mr Panneerselvam said.
Referring to the actor's outburst at the height of the 'Vishwaroopam' controversy where he threatened to leave the country in the face of strong protests from Muslim bodies, the minister sought to remind him that it was Ms Jayalalithaa who helped solve the stand-off.
But the actor had forgotten thanking Jayalalithaa then and had made such remarks now, he said.
Further, the government had not sought any contribution from him, but only from the Centre even as many good-hearted individuals and state governments where making voluntary donations considering it a noble deed, he said.
"The Tamil tradition is to not beg from anyone and turn down charity," he said.
In fact, Telugu actor Allu Arjun, had committed to providing Rs 25 lakh for the city where he stayed for 18 years, Mr Panneerselvam said.
On the actor's comment that 'ruling party' was spending Rs 4,000 crore on corporate projects and why it could not be divided among 120 crore people of India, Mr Panneerselvam wondered if the question was directed at the Centre.
"Don't know why he is asking that question now. Probably he is angry that (Centre) has not waived the service tax levied on cinema industry," he said.
Referring to a recent ad-film featuring the actor, Mr Panneerselvam said there were reports that he had donated the Rs 15 crore he charged as his payment, to an NGO which had only denied such reports.
"We cannot be tolerating Kamal Haasan's blabbering just because he is a big actor or makes big films. People of Tamil Nadu who have complete faith in Chief Minister Amma will never believe or accept them," he said.