Row over Manjeswaram CPM candidate's faith

Kerala Chief Minister and senior CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan has now backed Mr. Rai's beliefs

By launching his campaign from a temple and openly backing Sabarimala beliefs and faiths, CPM's Assembly by-poll candidate for Manjeswaram in Kasargod, Shankar Rai, has triggered a heated debate in Kerala.

While the CPM was in an embarrassing situation over Shankar Rai's act and statements, Kerala Chief Minister and senior CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan has now backed Mr. Rai's beliefs. He flayed the Opposition Congress for terming Shakar Rai a pseudo-Hindu devotee.

With Sabarimala women entry issue remaining as a key topic for October 21 by-poll campaign to five Assembly seats in Kerala, Mr. Rai's gestures were widely considered as vote bank strategy.

Rai had openly stated that he used to go to Sabarimala by following the customs and faiths over the Ayyappa temple and his view was that anyone can go to the temple by following the customs and faiths.

While many senior CPM leaders were finding it difficult to justify Shakar Rai, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday backed Shankar Rai's stand and flayed Congress leaders for terming him pseudo believer. Mr. Vijayan also alleged that the Congress was trying to find communal angles of CPM candidate as they did not have any other political issues to attack him. The Chief Minister was however silent on Sabarimala issue, even as the Congress and BJP are still using it to attack the left-front government.

Manjeswaram being a constituency dominated by Kannad and Thulu speaking people, the CPM fielded Rai as he hailed from the region and also got good connect with the linguistic minorities of the region. The CPM hopes to tap the pro-Congress and pro-BJP Hindu votes by fielding Shakar Rai.

While BJP have fielded Ravisha Tantri Kuntar, who contested unsuccessfully in this Lok Sabha polls, Congress-led United Democratic Front fielded Indian Union Muslim League's T Kamarudeen. The BJP is having high hopes in the constituency as party general secretary K Surendran lost by 89 votes in 2016 Assembly polls to IUM's Abdul Razak, who died last year.

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