P Chidambaram
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram.Reuters

Indian Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, has reportedly withdrawn controversial remarks referring to by-elections, in the context of the Mullaperiyar dam issue.

"Like some other speakers, I also made a passing reference to the forthcoming by-election. I take back that remark," television news channel NDTV quoted him as saying on Sunday. He was also quoted as appealing to the people of the southern Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu to read his statement fully and act, in the matter of the dam, with dignity and patience; he also stressed the need to resolve the dispute with cooperation and a display of brotherhood.

Earlier, in a Congress party meeting in Chennai, he said the Kerala government's apprehension over safety of the dam was unnecessary and claimed it was borne out of by-poll fear.

The remarks made in Chennai, on Saturday, also included those pointing out that concerns over the safety of the dam were to be shared equally by the two states, since both depended on its continued presence.

Unfortunately, the statement was not well received, with Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy saying he would lodge a complaint with the Congress high command. The state's Leader of Opposition, in the Legislative Assembly, V.S. Achuthanandan, demanded Chidambaram's resignation.