Sabarimala controversy and Kerala polls

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“Hindsight is always twenty-twenty.”

– Billy Wilder

 

Swami Ayyappan and Lord Ram, south and north, are in the thick of electoral politics. 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. 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. 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. With these words the Supreme Court opened the doors of Kerala’s Sabarimala temple to all women, irrespective of age. The apex court verdict went against long-held beliefs and sentiments of Ayyappa 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.

The BJP has never won a Lok Sabha seat from Kerala despite its parent organisation, the RSS having a strong organisational base in the state. In the 2014 General Elections, it was the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) that won 12 out of the 20 seats in Kerala. 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. The BJP has long struggled to make inroads in Kerala. The party has only ever won one seat in the state, in the 2016 Assembly election. For long it has been on the lookout for an issue that could propel them beyond their fringe existence in the state, and the Supreme Court’s verdict on the entry of women in the Sabarimala temple could not have come at a more opportune time for the BJP. The Sabarimala agitation provides the BJP with an opportunity to become the representative of the larger Hindu sentiment in the state.

Chhattisgarh went to polls and then Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and the “communal BJP” is fighting with its back to the wall even as the shadow of a yet to rise Yogi’s Ram Statue tries to outstrip the shadow cast by Modi’s Statue of Unity. The battle between soft Hindutva and hardline Hindutva is a given in the 2019 general elections. The BJP has never won a Lok Sabha seat from Kerala despite its parent organisation, the RSS having a strong organisational base in the state. In the 2014 General Elections, it was the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) that won 12 out of the 20 seats in Kerala.

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