Ahead of Kerala assembly election Sabarimala comes under spotlight once more

Published on Feb 02, 2021 05:30 PM IST

One of the reasons for the drubbing of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the 2019 general election in which it lost all but one of the 20 Lok Sabha seats was the government’s handling of the temple issue

The Sabarimala temple will open on December 30 at 5 pm for the annual festival of ‘Makaravilakku’, officials said on Monday.(REUTERS)
The Sabarimala temple will open on December 30 at 5 pm for the annual festival of ‘Makaravilakku’, officials said on Monday.(REUTERS)

Ahead of the assembly election in Kerala, the contentious issue of allowing women devotees into the Sabarimala temple is shaping up as a major factor for political parties with the Congress first off the blocks to leverage it.

While the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) has questioned secular credentials of the Muslim League, one of the oldest allies of the opposition United Democratic Front(UDF), the Congress raked up emotional Sabarimala issue to corner both the government and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Congress leader Oommen Chandy had written a letter to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan last week asking him to approach the Supreme Court to expedite a ruling on the contentious temple issue and withdraw its earlier affidavit that favoured entry of women of all ages to the hilltop shrine. Chandy, a former chief minister, said the government’s affidavit had created much confusion which ultimately led to a Supreme Court verdict in 2018 that triggered violence in the state.

One of the reasons for the drubbing of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the 2019 general election in which it lost all but one of the 20 Lok Sabha seats was the government’s handling of the temple issue. In 2018 the state had witnessed unrest when the government tried to implement the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the temple and worship the presiding deity Lord Ayyappa. After a long spell of unrest the apex court later referred the issue to a larger bench in 2019 and a final verdict is pending.

“The government should withdraw its earlier affidavit and apologize to devotees for hurting their sentiments. Its position complicated the issue and it tried to enforce the verdict with brute force. It is time for the government to approach the court for a final decision,” said Chandy.

Chandy played the Sabarimala card after CPI (M) state secretary A Vijayaraghavan taunted the Congress, questioning frequent trip of the party’s leaders to the house of Muslim League chief Panakkad Hyderali Thangal. He alleged that the Congress had surrendered to the League and questioned its secular credentials.

“The League is controlling Congress these days. Even Oommen Chandy was brought in as per its initiative,” he claimed. After his comments sparked a row, Vijayaraghavan clarified that he was talking about a possible UDF alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami, similar to the one during the last local body election. The League said it was wrong to dub the whole Muslim community as communal for a few votes and asked the CPI (M)’s central leadership to explain it.

A worried CPI (M) has asked its leaders not to fall in the temple trap.

“We all know why the Congress is raking it up now. We have already made it clear that what the court decides we will go by it,” said Finance Minister Thomas Issac.

He also said the Congress was bereft of any issues so it was falling back on an old issue which is in the apex court.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, who is on a state-wide yatra, also said the UDF will bring legislation to protect believers if it comes to power. Assembly elections in Kerala and four other states are due in April-May.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is also upset with the Congress for hijacking a poll plank. Congress leaders also questioned top BJP leaders, including Amit Shah, who had promised to protect believers’ rights. “What happened to those tall promises made by PM Modi and then party president Amit Shah?” asked Chennithala.

The BJP claimed that its initiatives led to a rethinking on the part of the Supreme Court which later referred it to it to a nine-member bench.

“It is a live issue. We suffered most during the Sabarimala stir. Some of us are facing dozens of cases filed by the government,” said BJP’s Kerala unit chief K Surendran.

Get Latest India Newsalong with Latest Newsand Top Headlinesfrom India and around the world.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Friday, February 03, 2023
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals