Sabarimala: BJP hopes political mileage from temple row

Sabarimala: BJP hopes political mileage from temple row

The Sabarimala temple. PTI file photo

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been trying to make inroads into the Communist bastion of Kerala, views the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age into Sabarimala temple as a “god-sent opportunity” to expand its base in the state.

The BJP, which just has one MLA in the 140-member Kerala Assembly, has taken the lead in organising protests against the Supreme Court verdict in a bid to project it as the “sole protector” of Hindus in the state.

Though the initial reaction of the BJP was somewhat in support of the Supreme Court order, the party changed its stand and jumped onto the anti-verdict bandwagon after realising that there was the groundswell of support for the protest march organised by the Royal Pandalam family against the entry of women of all age into the temple.

BJP and RSS cadres were the first to camp at Sabarimala in October when the temple opened for monthly pooja for the first time after verdict – violence was reported in Nilackel, the base camp, and other areas and several women who came to offer prayers were either stopped at Pamba or on their way to Sannidhanam, the Sanctum Sanctorum.

The BJP hopes to capitalise on the CPM government’s decision to implement the Supreme Court verdict by projecting it as “anti-Hindu” and an administration that does not give due importance to traditions. The BJP taking on the Communist regime is aimed at a chunk of the Hindu votes, who have always sided with the Left Democratic Front (LDF) headed by the CPI (M).

Though the general opinion is that the BJP may gain electorally and politically in the near future due to its stand on the Sabarimala issue, political observers say the saffron party may not be able to keep the momentum and continue to gain mileage through the issue in a state like Kerala where people are very politically aware.

Even as it projects itself as the saviour of Hindus, the BJP has been confronted with various lower caste outfits which have questioned the saffron party’s “new-found” love for them. Though the upper caste might rally around the BJP, it would be interesting to see how lower castes like the Ezhavas -- traditional supporters of the Left -- play their cards.

“BJP is seen as an upper-caste party in Kerala and it would be a gigantic task for them to convince people belonging to lower castes. And when no woman has so far come to temple in the past few days, what are the protests for?” senior journalist and political observer N P Chekutty asked.

The temple will keep its doors for pilgrims during the Mandala Pooja-Magaravilakku season for 64 days – and the BJP, in the past three days alone, made sure at least one leader from the party was there at the hills. After Union Tourism Minister K J Alphons, sources say, the BJP plans to make at least one leader – preferably a minister or a senior leader – visit Sabarimala every alternate day to keep up the issue alive.

Chekutty feels that the BJP has “miscalculated its Sabarimala operation” and might end up gaining nothing in their campaign since the agitation has gone out of its control.
“The kind of violence that is happening in Sabarimala and violation of decorum at the Sabarimala Temple by some elements will not be acceptable to the people of Kerala. The BJP thinks it is a golden opportunity for the party to make inroads in Kerala, but its actions may not allow them to do so,” he told DH.