Sabarimala row triggers heated debate on election day in Kerala
Thiruvananthapuram, Apr 06: The Sabarimala women's entry issue, one of the major poll planks of the opposition UDF and the NDA against the ruling LDF during the campaign, took centre stage of debate even on Tuesday, the day of assembly election, in Kerala as major leaders locked horns over the matter.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity at the Sabarimala, and all other gods are with the LDF government which has worked for the welfare of people. Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala in his reaction said the Left government would surely face the wrath of the Lord Ayyyppa and his devotees in this election.
Lashing out at Vijayan, BJP state president K Surendran said what the CM had done in Sabarimala three years ago was the 'act of demon' and people of the state would never forget his "wicked deeds".
Kerala had witnessed violent protests by right wing activists after the LDF government decided to implement the 2018 Supreme court verdict allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala, where traditionally women in the menstrual age group of 10-50 are barred from offering worship.
The war of words became intense as the polling continued with the several prominent leaders in both fronts coming up with sharp reactions supporting and opposing the statements of the CM.
All began when Sukumaran Nair, the general secretary of the Nair Service Society, an outfit of influential Hindu Nair community, on Tuesday said the people of Kerala wanted a change of rule in the state. In a veiled attack against the LDF government, which had faced severe criticism from the majority community against its alleged hastiness in implementing the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age group at Sabarimala, Nair said the protest of Ayyappa devotees still persist.
When reporters sought his reaction, the Chief Minister said he does not think that Sukumaran Nair would tell anything against the state government. "He is an Ayyappa devotee. Ayyappa and all other gods are with this government which has protected the interest of people belonging to all religions. Gods are always with those who do good for people," Vijayan told reporters in Kannur after casting his vote at a school there.
Responding to the CM's statement, Chennithala sought to know whether atheist Vijayan was seeking the blessings of the Lord Ayyappa to win the elections. "Neither Lord Ayyappa nor his devotees would forgive the Left government for hurting their sentiments," the Congress leader said.
K Surendran said Vijayan's remarks over Sabarimala show his "weakness". The atheist woman had been sent to Sabarimala misusing the government machinery, he alleged adding that women were escorted by police in an ambulance in the midnight to enter the hill shrine.
"Pinarayi Vijayan was the one who had challenged the Ayyappa devotees to hold hartal after the women's entry at Sabarimala," the BJP leader alleged. Former Congress Chief Ministers AK Antony and Oommen Chandy also reacted sharply against Vijayan's Sabarimala comments on the election day.
Chandy asked who would believe in Kerala when Vijayan spoke about Sabarimala. "Not a single devotee in Kerala will believe his words. No one will forget his negative reply when the opposition asked him to withdraw the government's affidavit at the apex court with regard to Sabarimala," he said adding that it was out of fear of failure that the CM was talking about Lord Ayyappa during the poll.
If the UDF was voted to power, it would take all possible legal measures to protect the faith of devotees in Sabarimala, Chandy added. Congress Working Committee (CWC) member A K Antony urged Vijayan to tender apology to Lord Ayyappa and the devotees for what the government had done at the hillock shrine.
If the Chief Minister was not ready to express sincere regret, his words about Sabarimala and Lord Ayyappa were just 'hypocrisy ", he said. Meanwhile, ministers AK Balan and Thomas Isaac came out defending the Pinarayi Vijayan over the Sabarimala remarks. Isaac said not Sabarimala but people are discussing development during the election and expressed confidence that the LDF has the support of people from all walks of life.
Balan, however, sought the urgent intervention of the Election Commission against the opposition 'misusing' and flaring up the Sabarimala issue on the election day. Alleging that the propaganda was part of a deliberate attempt to fail the Left government, he said the God has never been misused so badly ever in the elections.
"It is unconstitutional and a challenge to the Representation of the People Act," the minister claimed. Criticising Sukumaran Nair, he said he did not believe that NSS general secretary would stoop to the level of turning this election to a struggle between believers and non- believers.