On April 16, Mr. Thirumavalavan, the DMK-front candidate for the Lok Sabha elections in Chidambaram, was accorded a grand reception by the ‘Podhu’ Dikshithars of the temple.

The visit of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader Thol Thirumavalavan to the Nataraja temple in Chidambaram has showcased how elections make even politically irreconcilable groups reach out to each other.

On April 16, Mr. Thirumavalavan, the DMK-front candidate for the Lok Sabha elections in Chidambaram, was accorded a grand reception by the ‘Podhu’ Dikshithars of the temple.

The picture showing them together with the MP wearing a shawl and a garland took the online world by storm, attracting appreciation and criticism.

For long, the VCK and the Dikshithars have been involved in an ideological battle on how the temple had to be administered.

Mr. Thirumavalavan was one of the foremost critics of private management of shrines and ardently supported the DMK government’s attempt to take over the administration of the temple. This move has been set aside by the Supreme Court.

There were also other issues linked to legends, such as demands to demolish a wall said to have been built to block the way through which the Dalit Saivite saint Nandanar entered the temple. Mr. Thirumavalavan also backed the use of Tamil in prayers and ceremonies, something the priestly class has been reluctant to implement.

Reactions to the visit have come in two different ways online. While some see the photograph as a symbol of progress in society, others have criticised Mr. Thirumavalavan for compromising on his political beliefs.

Speaking to The Hindu, the VCK leader said he had visited the temple in the run-up to the 2009 Lok Sabha polls too, when the priests invited him to the shrine.

“As an MP seeking re-election, I have to appeal to all voters in the constituency, irrespective of their background. I have nothing against the Dikshitars personally,” he said.

Mr. Thirumavalavan said he made his position on the issues relating to the temple clear to the Dikshithars. “I am against private administration of the temple. I am for Tamil in prayers. They said they knew my position well,” he said, adding that the VCK had no idea to replicate in Tamil Nadu the strategy of Brahmin-Dalit collaboration tried out in Uttar Pradesh by the Bahujan Samaj Party.

The former secretary of the ‘Podhu’ Dikshithar’s Committee, Ananda Thandava Dikshitar, said that even if it had not been the election season, the reception to a person of high position would have been similar. “He is the MP of the constituency,” he pointed out.

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