For the BJP, the Sabarimala controversy has come as a chance to entrench itself in Kerala – a no-go area for the ruling party at the Centre so far. Coming ahead of the 2019 general elections, the issue of women’s entry into the Sabarimala temple has come as a potent and emotional issue on which the BJP hopes to ride on in the electoral politics in a state that has spurned the party so far.
A two-horse race state, with the CPM-led Left Front and the Congress-led UDF alternating in winning assembly polls, has remained a tough nut to crack for the BJP despite the presence of a well-entrenched RSS network.
But clearly, the Supreme Court verdict paving the way for entry into the sanctum sanctorum of the presiding deity at Sabarimala located at Pathanamthitta district of Kerala has come as a shot in the arm of the BJP and bodies that claim to espouse the cause of Hindus.
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Traditionally, the temple had barred entry of women from the age of 10 to 50 years as the presiding deity Lord Ayyappa is celibate and it is a matter of faith and a diktat being followed for the past several decades.
The Supreme Court Constitutional bench had in its 28 September judgment allowed entry to all women into the temple, sparking off an agitation from devotees. It is a violent manifestation of this faith that is visible in Kerala, with protests all over the state and is reverberating with Save Sabarimala campaign.
As the temple opens, the Kerala government is faced with a test whether it can implement the Supreme Court order or buckles in to the protesters of all hues. While an assortment of pro-Hindu outfits has arisen to save the shrine from an “atheist Communist” that these forces believe was playing its own brand of politics.
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If the BJP wanted to cash in on this ‘court-sent’ opportunity for political gains and launched save Sabarimala campaign, its rival Congress too jumped in, opposing the implementation of the apex court order, only to prevent the BJP from gaining politically from the pro-temple sentiments on the ground.
The Sabarimala issue surely would help the BJP. The BJP is sure to gain from emotional sentiments rather than the Congress which is being seen more as an opportunistic player in this aspect.
Although it remains to be seen as to what extent the BJP will benefit in the forthcoming general elections, the agitation sure provides the party with a better chance than ever before to make a debut in the Lok Sabha from Kerala.
In the last general elections, the Congress-led UPA won 12 out of the total 20 seats. But if the party is able to keep the Sabarimala pot boiling, it can gain from the emotions of the masses. Especially in the seven constituencies where Hindus constitute over 60 per cent of electorate, the Left and the Congress have held strong and blocked the BJP even during the Modi tsunami that swept other parts of the country.
And the BJP is not leaving anything to chance with the Sabarimala verdict and is going to town painting both the Left and the Congress as parties working against the interests of the Hindu community.
In fact, it was the Left Front government led by VS Achuthanandan in 2007 that was in favour of allowing women into the Sabarimala shrine. Even in the Supreme Court during the final hearings, the Kerala government lawyer maintained that it was not in favour of discriminating against women when it came to entry into the temple premises. Entry into the shrine’s sanctum sanctorum for prayers has been the male preserve for long.
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Going by the government resolve, women could enter the temple shrine with police protection. But can the Left Front government handle the anger of the common devotees remains to be seen.