It was only natural that the BJP and Sangh Parivar to have tapped into public anger against SC order allowing menstruating women entry into the sanctum sanctorum of Sabarimala, but what is a trifle surprising is that even the Congress has waded into the issue, lending its support to the protests raging in Kerala.
For sure, the BJP strategists view the Sabarimala temple controversy as potent a political weapon in South India as the Ram mandir issue was in North India. Worried that the BJP would actually benefit from the public outpouring against the apex court order, the Congress too has jumped in with competitive Yatra politics that has the state in a state of turmoil.
The Left Front government in Kerala has made it very clear that it will do everything to ensure the Apex court order is implemented in letter and spirit. Menstruating women, between the age group of 10 and 50 are barred from entry into the hilltop shrine of Lord Ayyappa, who is considered to be celibate.
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Supreme Court has ruled that everyone has a right to enter the temple, sparking off an agitation across the state ever since the order was pronounced in September. The BJP was off the blocks first to cash in on the public anger and had all its frontal organisations and Sangh Parivar outfits. Now, its leaders are in the forefront of a Save Sabarimala Yatra cutting across the length of 11 districts in Kerala, covering some 400 km.
This Yatra, flagged off by leader of opposition in Karnataka, BS Yeddyurappa and led by Kerala state BJP president PS Sridharan Pillai is an indication that the BJP was no longer shy of being seen as openly defying the apex court order on a matter of “faith and traditions” as its national chief Amit Shah declared. The Yatra will culminate on November 13 when the Supreme Court takes up a review petition challenging the earlier order allowing women entry into Sabarimala.
For the BJP, yatra has had been a legitimate political weapon through the years as it had effectively merged its political messaging through an emotional religious pitch with its demand for Ram mandir in Ayodhya. The party hopes to make immense gains in Kerala in the 2019 general elections.
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Kerala for the BJP, remains a very tough nut to crack as the state continues to be a two-horse race between the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the CPM led Left Front. The BJP is nowhere in the picture, as yet, but it hopes the Sabarimala issue will prop it up electorally.
The BJP continues to apply pressure on the Left Front government to challenge the SC order, but the state government refuses to play ball. This helps the BJP to keep the Sabarimala issue alive and simmering, giving it an acceptance that it did not find among the voters.
It is this worry that the Congress, which has been seen playing the soft Hindutva card for the past few years, registered its presence with the protesters. Although the national Congress leadership welcomed the SC order, the state unit is totally opposed to tampering with the age-old customs and traditions at this hill-top temple shrine.
So, it is trying to match the BJP, yatra to yatra.
The Congress too has got its campaign going, across the state, adding to the headache of the state government.
For both the two national parties, Sabarimala issue has come as a political jackpot and a stick to beat the Left Front government with. For sure, in the run-up to the general elections next year, the Sabarimala issue will be dominating the political space in Kerala and will have some impact in neighbouring South Indian states.