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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

Nair Society extends support to Congress in Kerala by-polls

Five assembly seats in Kerala are going to polls on October 21. The bypolls are being billed as the semi-final before the assembly elections next year.

india Updated: Oct 17, 2019 11:22 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvanathapuram
In this file photo, a procession is being taken out at the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, Kerala
In this file photo, a procession is being taken out at the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, Kerala (PTI)
         

The decision of the Nair Service Society (NSS), a socio-cultural body of upper caste Nairs in Kerala, to support candidates of the Congress-led United Democratic Front in the upcoming by-elections has rattled the CPI(M) and the BJP.

Five assembly seats in Kerala are going to polls on October 21. The bypolls are being billed as the semi-final before the assembly elections next year.

The NSS usually opts for a neutral stance during elections but this time it came out openly to support the UDF candidates saying both the CPI(M) and the BJP have failed to protect believers’ sentiments during the controversy over slowing women to enter the Sabarimala temple.

Political observers feel the Nair body’s decision may affect the BJP more than the CPI(M). The BJP is banking on the Sabarimala issue to expand its base in the Kerala.

“We are not satisfied with both the state and central governments. Believers feel let down. And many are still struggling with the cases registered during the agitation,” said M Sangeeth Kumar, one of the directors of the NSS.

Nairs comprise 14 per cent of the population in Kerala and are considered a powerful voting bloc.

The NSS had maintained a consistent position opposing the entry of women in the Sabarimala hill shrine. After the Supreme Court verdict in September 2018 that allowed women of all ages to enter the temple, the NSS was the first to file a review petition. The Nair body also took part in the statewide agitation against the move.

During the Lok Sabha election campaign both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah had said “sacrifices of the devotees won’t go waste”. The NSS and others expected an announcement after the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance came to power after the 2019 elections but law minister Ravi shankar Prasad said the Centre has no plan for any legislation on the matter.

The Congress has begun a campaign saying that the BJP cheated believers by promising legislation.

But the BJP put up a brave face saying believers know it fully who stood with them in trying times.

BJP has hit back saying that the Congress is shedding “crocodile tears” just for votes. “We never said legislation won’t be there. We are waiting for the Supreme Court decision on review pleas,” said O Rajagopal, the lone BJP party MLA in Kerala.

Among five seats where bypolls is Vattioorkavu (Thiruvananthapuram), here Nairs are a majority and BJP’s Kummanam Rajasekharan, then the state president, came second here in the last assembly polls.

The CPI(M) is treading cautiously after it managed to win just one of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said that the BJP and the Congress have “cheated believers”. Steering clear of controversies, Vijayan has highlighted the Rs 1273 crore of development work being carried out by the LDF government at the Sabarimala temple.