The low politics indulged in Kerala by three parties - BJP, Congress and CPM - on the Sabarimala issue where the SNDP and the NSS too have joined by taking the matter into a serious one, has not yet delivered anything they wished for. The matter is before the Supreme Court which will decide things early next year. The court may increase the number of judges hearing the petitions and the review when the new year begins.
The Central Government does not intend to issue an ordinance on it, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has clarified. That is out of fear of losing women's support, one presumes.
The Congress has no stand on this, quite typical of it indulging in doublespeak. The CPM should have been for entry of women, irrespective of their age, in Sabarimala. It has put the ball in the Supreme Court saying it is duty bound to enforce the verdict. There matters should have ended. The BJP, hoping for a few extra votes, has raised the issue, contrary to what it had said earlier, thanks to the visit of BJP national president Amit Shah and his speech which was quite nasty and did not behove the president of a party. The BJP started the agitation and ended in a fiasco. There it has one thing to boast of; the Congress was forced to join the stir. The CPM is happy the BJP will get some votes which normally should have gone to Congress in the next elections to Parliament. Well, one cannot rule out some CPIM votes moving to the BJP in the present situation.
The NSS was vehemently against the verdict and it made no covert move and said it publicly. The SNDP is an organisation of Ezhavas who form 24 per cent of Kerala votes and the vote bank for the CPM. Its leader Vellapally Natesan is close to Pinarayi but had earlier supported the BJP in the election. His son Tushar is still an ally of the BJP. All these speak volumes for Vellapally, a man known for such acrobatics which did not pay.
This game of doublespeak will be short-lived.The BJP changed the site of its agitation to Thiruvanthapuram. The reason is the agitation has failed. The Thiruvanthapuram agitation with its leader AN Radhakrishnan going on hunger strike is also no big issue and was inaugurated by Kerala unit president Sreedharan Pillai. The BJP has announced it is not against women's entry into the temple. The shift to state capital also means the end of the Sabrimala agitation.
What has been gained by this struggle? A few votes which normally should have gone to the Congress. But these few votes will not help the BJP and only harm the Congress. The Congress is aware of it just as it is aware of its previous deeds. Its leaders are trying every trick in the book to stop this. In politics there are no permanent friends or enemies. In the dismissal of the EMS government in the late 1950s, the RSS had opposed the Congress move.
The CPM has announced a women's gathering in the form of a wall on the issue. It is joined by a mass gathering supported by CP Sugathan who had courted arrest in an agitation led by Rahul Easwar, a leader of the Hindus who were for the ban on women's entry. Similarly, Vellapally too has supported the CPM-sponsored women's move, but has also opposed the entry of young women to Sabarimala. Only Vellappally and Sugathan could have done it.
This issue raises another one which is slightly different. It is the government's stand on the Jacobites versus Orthodox faction feud over the church issue. The Supreme Court has given a verdict in favour of the Orthodox faction, but did not say when it should be implemented, says a Jacobite devotee. The issue is in public domain, thanks to the fight the two sects have indulged in. It speaks volumes for the churches who swear by faith and fight like Kilkenny cats. If the rumour is correct the Jacobites have the support of Pinarayi. It is sad that it has come to this pass. The fight between the two have been on for donkey's years. The devotees who fight in the name of belief think nothing when it comes to marriage. That shows either how clever they are when it comes to money or position. That puts faith in question. More than faith it is money. I have no intention to be a silly sally and do not indulge in this dispute which is a disgrace to Christians.
That is about the faith story, quite revealing and quite funny. Now Kerala is facing a problem not politically but materially. It needs money to build a new Kerala. People's attention has been diverted from the herculean task Kerala is facing: at least Rs 30,000 crore is needed for it. Sabrimala and the Jacobite-Orthodox tussle can wait till we Keralites raise Rs 30,000 crore for our own rehabilitation.
In a week, the results will be out in the five State elections which are said to be a national issue and will demolish Sabarimala concentration by Malayalees. It will have a cascading effect on national politics.
- P C Punnen, Senior Journalist.
(The views expressed in the article are those of the author).