| Sankaracharya supporters clash with a group of alleged DMK members on Madras High Court premises after the hearing of his bail application was adjourned on Saturday. (PTI)
Chennai, Nov. 13: Facts can be stranger than fiction in Tamil Nadu politics, where the two major Dravidian parties have been at each other's necks for the last 37 years.
This was evident yesterday when DMK chief M. Karunanidhi found himself on the same side of the fence as chief minister and ADMK president Jayalalithaa. What brought the arch-rivals together was the dramatic arrest of Kanchi Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati in connection with the September 3 murder of a temple manager.
Karunanidhi has been boycotting the Assembly for the last three years, saying there is no democracy in Tamil Nadu. Political observers say if the always-sniping rivals are calling for the law to take its course in the case, there must be more to it than meets the eye.
The seer's arrest is a clear sign that Jayalalithaa, who burnt her fingers by allying with the BJP in the last Lok Sabha polls, is distancing herself from the larger 'Hindutva discourse' that the BJP and Sangh parivar outfits are identified with.
The Kanchi Kamakoti mutt that the seer heads was regarded as an 'extra-constitutional centre of power' when the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance was in power. Opposition parties would criticise him for unduly 'influencing' the Tamil Nadu government's policies, particularly the bill banning forcible religious conversions.
The ruling ADMK itself had 'close links' with the mutt, with Jayalalithaa thinking nothing of attending a huge yagna the seer organised in Kancheepuram last year.
Despite the seer's catholicity ' most of the political leaders cutting across parties and the middle class look to him for guidance ' the mutt continues to be regarded as a 'symbol of Brahminism aiding the BJP's Hindutva-revivalist agenda in recent years'.
When the DMK forged a formidable anti-Jayalalithaa alliance comprising OBCs, Dalits and minorities during the last Lok Sabha elections, the ADMK-BJP combine came to be regarded as a 'chip off the Brahminical block'. Supporters of the DMK alliance resented any revival of 'Brahminical forces'; their opposition along with some highly unpopular and repressive measures contributed to Jayalalithaa's electoral rout.
With Assembly polls due in less than two years, Jayalalithaa is reportedly keen to win back this huge 'non-Brahmin vote bank' from which the DMK-led bloc derives its strength. Brahmins make up just 3 per cent of the state's population.
With the 'Hindutva platform' and the mutt's blessings not fetching her votes, the seer's alleged involvement in the temple murder has provided the chief minister the chance to dramatically snap ties with both.
The sankaracharya's arrest has thus come as a 'double blessing': it has reinforced the credibility of Tamil Nadu police ' even Karunanidhi hailed the arrest as an 'honest piece of action' ' and has also allowed Jayalalithaa to halt the dilution of 'Dravidian ideology' by distancing herself from Hindutva forces. In political terms, it would appear that the state is returning to hardcore 1960s Dravidian politics.