Statue diplomacy helped mend TN-Karnataka relations

DMK supporters gather near the Kauvery Hospital where DMK President M Karunanidhi in undergoing treatment, in Chennai on Tuesday, Aug 7, 2018. Supporters have started thronging the hospital after Karunanidhi's conditions, reportedly, deteriorated on Monday. (PTI Photo)

Festering dispute over sharing of Cauvery river water kept tensions simmering between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka for decades, but it was DMK president M Karunanidhi as chief minister in 2009 decided to put an end to the acrimonious relationship.

Karunanidhi and his then Karnataka counterpart B S Yeddyurappa walked the extra mile to foster a new beginning in the relations between the two neighbouring states.

After months of back-channel talks, Yeddyurappa invited Karunanidhi in his official capacity to visit Bengaluru to unveil the statue of poet and saint Thiruvalluvar, which was under a veil for nearly two decades, on August 9, 2009.

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In reciprocation of the gesture, Karunanidhi invited Yeddyurappa to unveil the bust of renowned Kannada poet Sarvagna in Chennai on August 13.

The two programmes went ahead as planned and both leaders hailed the events as the beginning of a new relationship between the two states.

The unveiling of Thiruvalluvar statue near Ulsoor lake in Bengaluru was significant since it was under the veil for nearly 18 years after the riots that reportedly targeted Tamils in the city at the height of the Cauvery agitation in the early 90s.

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Karunanidhi had then taken a vow not to attend any public function in Bengaluru until the Thiruvalluvar statue was unveiled.

“We two brothers have set a precedent. There is no politics in this, chief ministers of other states should emulate this,” Karunanidhi said, adding that “we are not unveiling statues, but opening up hearts of people of the two states.”

After the event, Karunanidhi maintained a cordial relationship with the chief minister of other neighbouring states as well.

In March 2010, the DMK leader invited then Andhra Pradesh chief minister and Yeddyurappa for the grand inauguration of new secretariat complex in Chennai.

The secretariat complex was his dream project, but his successor and arch-rival J Jayalalithaa converted it into a multi-speciality hospital and moved the secretariat back to Fort St. George.

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Statue diplomacy helped mend TN-Karnataka relations

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