In a fresh play of statue politics, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has reached out to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi — for the return of 11th century statutes of Chola emperor Rajaraja and his queen, Lokamadevi.
Though no love's lost between Karunanidhi and Modi, who is seen as a friend of his archrival AIADMK chief Jayalalitha, his latest overture to his Gujarat counterpart seems to be a replay of "statue diplomacy" of last year.
Then the DMK chief had shook hands with another BJP Chief Minister, Y S Yeddyurappa of Karnataka, to settle a 18-year-old row over erecting the statue of Tamil poet-saint Thiruvalluvar in Bangalore and, in exchange, one of Kannada poet-saint Sarvajna in Chennai.
This time, Karunanidhi is keen that Modi uses his good offices to send home the bronze statues, which were acquired by Sarabhai Foundation trustee Gautam Sarabhai in the 1940s.
DMK officials said the Chola statues' return to Tamil Nadu is important for Karunanidhi who has often flayed Modi for "communal politics." With an eye to score a political point before the assembly polls next year, Karunanidhi wishes to project himself as the most pro-Tamil Chief Minister.
After his World Classical Tamil Conference jamboree in Coimbatore in June, Karunanidhi is organising the millennium celebration of the famous Brahadeeswarar temple of Thanjavur, which was built by Rajaraja Chola, on September 25 and 26.
The temple is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to epigraphical evidence, Rajaraja Chola started building the temple in his 19th year and completed it on the 275th day of his 25th year in 1010 AD.
Last Monday, Karunanidhi sent a high-level official delegation led by state education and archeological minister Thennarasu to call on Modi in Gandhinagar to request him to help in the return of the statues, which are kept at Calico Museum of Textiles, of Sarabhai Foundation, in Ahmedabad.
The delegation, which included renowned archaeologist Dr R Nagaswamy, explained to Modi about the inscriptions found in a mandapam located on the western side of the temple about the statues. Modi is understood to have told the TN team that he would do his "best."