Pathanamthitta: As the Kerala Assembly election campaign enters the last phase, the issue of entry of women into the Sabarimala temple has returned to haunt the CPI(M).
The Opposition hopes to use the issue to push the CPI(M), particularly popular Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, into a corner.
Vijayan’s vociferous support to the 2018 Supreme Court decision allowing women of menstruating age into the temple — disregarding popular opinion against it and reluctance among own cadres — is believed to have played a big role in the rout of the CPI(M) in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Vijayan has been trying to dodge the issue saying the matter rests with the Supreme Court (review petitions have been referred to a larger Bench).
However, under increasing pressure to take a stand, CPI(M) leader and Temple Affairs Minister Kadakampally Surendran had expressed regret over “the incidents of 2018 at the temple”, adding, “Everyone is sad over what happened there.”
Surendran is contesting from Kazhakuttam, where he faces the BJP’s Sobha Surendran, the face of its Sabarimala agitation.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury immediately distanced the party from Surendran’s statement saying there was no change in the LDF policy on Sabarimala — that the Supreme Court order was in line with renaissance traditions in Kerala — and that the government was duty bound to implement the apex court verdict.
"Not just Kazhakuttam but across Central and South Kerala, the BJP is campaigning on the single-point issue of Sabarimala", Sobha Surendran said.
“Sabarimala and the protection of faith are the major issues of this election. When the CPI(M) trampled over traditions, BJP workers were fighting for protection of faith. Minister Surendran himself took activists to the hill shrine (the state police had escorted women who wanted to visit the temple).”
In Tripunithura constituency, both the BJP and Congress are highlighting CPI(M) candidate M. Swaraj’s statement at the time that Lord Ayyappa was not an 'eternal celibate' (the reason behind keeping menstruating women out as per tradition).