Sabarimala issue back in focus as campaign peaks for Pala bypoll
Kottayam: The Sabarimala women's entry issue, a major plank of opposition parties during the Lok sabha election, is back in focus with the Congress and BJP raising it to target the ruling LDF in the campaign for the by-election to coming Pala assembly constituency.
The two opposition parties accused the LDF government of implementing the Supreme Court verdict permitting women in menstrual age to offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala in a "hurried manner".
The September 23 bypoll in Pala is considered an acid test for the Left which faced humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha polls with the Congress-led UDF sweeping 19 of the 20 seats.
Syrian Catholic community and Hindus account for most of the electorate in the segment, where the by-poll has been necessitated by the demise of KC(M) founder leader and former finance minister K M Mani on April 9.
Senior Congress leader A K Antony, campaigning for UDF candidate Jose Tom Pulikkunnel on Wednesday, alleged Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan turned Sabarimala "a battle ground" in the guise of implementing the apex court verdict.
"The Chief Minister displayed his arrogance in Sabarimala and his immature actions turned it a battleground," the former union minister alleged.
He challenged Pinarayi Vijayan to declare his current stand on the issue in the wake of his party admitting its mistake in handling the women entry issue.
Pinarayi Vijayan, currently touring the constituency campaigning for LDF candidate Mani C Kappen, did not respond to Antony's allegations.
But his ministerial colleague and senior CPI(M) leader M M Mani attacked Antony, accusing him of speaking in the tune of the BJP.
Mani on Thursday alleged it was the Congress and the BJP which turned Sabarimala a battle ground during the pilgrim season last year.
Targeting BJP also on the issue, Antony has asked whether the ruling party at the Centre was ready to protect the faith of Lord Ayyappa devotees as promised by it during the Parliament elections and bring an ordinance.
Responding to Antony's poser, BJP leader and Union Minister V Muraleedharan said the BJP will fulfil the poll
promise made by the party in its manifesto on Sabarimala.
Talking to reporters in Pala on Thursday, the Minister of State for External Affairs, said the pleas seeking a review of the Supreme Court verdict, lifting the traditional ban on entry of women in the age group of 10-50 into the temple, was currently under the consideration of the Supreme Court.
Similarly, the Ramajanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue is also being heard by the apex court, Muraleedhahran, who is in Pala to campaign for BJP candidate N Hari, said.
"Let us wait for the court verdict...The promise we have made in our manifesto will be implemented," he said.
In its Lok Sabha poll manifesto, the BJP has said its government would make every effort to ensure that the subject of faith, tradition and worship rituals related to Sabarimala were adhered to.
A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court on September 28 last year by a 4:1 verdict allowed entry of women in Sabrimala temple, says banning their entry into the shrine was gender discrimination and the practice violates rights of Hindu women.