The Union health ministry has appointed ABVP national president Subbiah Shanmugam to the board of the new AIIMS coming up near Madurai, prompting condemnation from Opposition MPs who have cited how he faced charges of harassing an elderly woman neighbour in July.
Dr Subbiah, a surgical oncologist, was accused in a police complaint of urinating outside the widow’s flat to intimidate her in an alleged attempt to grab her parking slot at their apartment complex in Chennai.
Subbiah had denied the allegations, and the complaint – made on behalf of the neighbour by a relative – was later withdrawn.
Several Opposition MPs from Tamil Nadu on Wednesday slammed his appointment as a member of AIIMS Madurai’s 17-member board and said it reflected the BJP’s lack of respect for women.
“I am shocked by the appointment of Dr Subbiah Shanmugam, who stands accused of harassing his elderly woman neighbour, as a board member of AIIMS,” tweeted DMK parliamentarian Kanimozhi.
“Is this an endorsement of his indecent behaviour and also an incentive for other BJP cadres to follow suit?”
The controversy comes just as the BJP was claiming the moral high ground over VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan’s recent criticism of the Manusmriti, during which the Dalit MP made certain remarks that the BJP has construed as insulting to women.
The BJP had on Tuesday launched a state-wide protest, led by new entrant and actor Khushboo, against the remarks. On Wednesday, Thirumavalavan hit back.
“Is this the respect they show to women?” he told reporters, flagging the harassment charges against Subbiah, professor of surgical oncology with the Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital in Chennai.
Thirumavalavan threatened an agitation if Subbiah’s appointment to the AIIMS Madurai board was not revoked.
Among other MPs who criticised Subbiah’s appointment were D. Ravikumar (VCK), Su. Venkatesan (CPM) and Manickam Tagore (Congress).
After the harassment complaint was lodged, Subbiah had alleged “slander and character assassination” by Congress student wing NSUI and claimed the controversy stemmed from “misunderstandings emanating from the parking issue”.
Dr V.M. Katoch, president of Jipmer, Pondicherry, has been appointed chairman of the AIIMS Madurai board. The members include Dr Sudha Seshaiyan, vice-chancellor of the Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University. The board is to have three MPs as members, but these slots are yet to be filled.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in January 2019 laid the foundation stone for the institute, being built at an estimated cost of Rs 1,264 crore.